Innovate Blog
Sustainable Future: Why is there a global shortage of PLA and how will it affect the catering and hospitality industry?

Monday November 4, 2019

An Innovate blog by Katie Bradbury – Sustainability and Packaging Innovation Manager for Bunzl Catering Supplies.

Over recent months one of the major manufacturers of the raw material PLA (NatureWorks) has started to limit availability to its convertors, due to an increased and emerging demand from existing and other growing sectors e.g. the vaping industry. This production capacity issue and the resulting shortfall of material is also leading to an increase in the cost of PLA to the market. This supply pressure is affecting Far East and UK packaging manufacturers and distributors, so alternative sources of supply are not readily available.

As a solution to the current production issue is unclear, some foodservice packaging products manufactured from PLA may be limited or unavailable for an undetermined period of time. PLA tumblers and cold food containers will certainly be affected. PLA coated board items like cups and hot food containers, CPLA sip lids and CPLA cutlery ranges may be impacted too. We are working with our customers to implement product alternatives now.

At Bunzl Catering Supplies we have a number of product alternatives available and we are working with our customers to introduce these items now. Our ranges of recycled PET products boast a number of sustainability credentials and are fully recyclable when disposed of in a dedicated waste stream. As PLA and rPET are designed to enter different waste streams, it is important that your waste provider is aware of any planned changes in material types.

To enable full visibility of this developing situation we have created a new Sustainable Future factsheet, detailing the cause of the supply issues and relevant rPET recyclable alternatives for tumblers and cold food containers, currently the two ranges most impacted.

The factsheet features a range of Polarity tumblers, made with a minimum 50% recycled rPET content, the only plastic material that can be recycled back into food grade material. These Polarity tumblers are a prudent choice ahead of the UK Government proposed tax on plastic products which contain less than 30% recycled content.

Also detailed is our Revive recycled cold food containers. Manufactured in the UK and embossed with the words “100% recycled plastic – I used to be a bottle”, the Revive cold food container is made from 100% recycled rPET content. A high clarity container for optimum food presentation, the Revive salad container has a hinged lid and is easily stackable.

We are talking to our customers now about how we might work together to put practical product alternatives in place, negating any major disruption to your catering operation.  Contact us today for more information and take a look at our new factsheet here.