Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the U.S.) or sugarcanes (rest of world). Although PLA has been known for more than a century, it has only been of commercial interest in recent years, in light of its biodegradability.
Thermoformed PLA is currently used in a number of biomedical applications, such as sutures, stents, dialysis media and drug delivery devices. PLA is biodegradable, eco-friendly, and has a wide range of applications.
PLA is more expensive than many petroleum-derived commodity plastics, but its price has been falling as production increases. The demand for corn is growing, both due to the use of corn for bioethanol and for corn-dependent commodities, including PLA.
PLA is a sustainable alternative to petrochemical-derived products, since the lactides from which it is ultimately produced can be derived from the fermentation of agricultural by-products such as corn starch or other carbohydrate rich substances like maize, sugar or wheat.
PLA is a clear material and is bio-compostable. It is widely used in the produce industry and is a good fit for the "green" minded consumer. The PLA has qualities similar to PET and OPS; although there are some temperature and humidity concerns with transportation of PLA packaging, this resin has been found to be a viable alternative in the produce market.