Why is there a global PLA shortage?


At Tri-Star Packaging, we aim to keep our customers informed of current sustainability issues. The global PLA shortage is set to greatly affect the packaging industry. Below we detail why the shortage is happening and how Tri-Star can help your business during this time. We have also created a new Sustainable Future factsheet on the issue.

What is PLA?

PLA stands for Polylactic Acid. Made from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane, it’s a plant-based polymer designed to substitute widely used petroleum-based plastics like PET (polyethene terephthalate). In the packaging industry, PLA is often used for films, tumblers and food containers.

Why is there a global PLA shortage?

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

How will this affect me?

As a solution to the current production issue is unclear, some PLA packaging products may be limited or unavailable for an undetermined period of time. PLA tumblers and cold food containers will certainly be affected with other PLA coated items and CPLA ranges possibly being impacted also. We are working with our customers to implement product alternatives now.

Are there alternative products?

Tri-Star Packaging can provide a number of product alternatives available and we are currently working with our customers to introduce these items.

Our ranges of recycled PET products boast a number of sustainability credentials and are fully recyclable when disposed of in a dedicated waste stream.

Tri-Star Packaging can provide rPET alternatives for the PLA tumblers and cold food containers which are currently the most impacted ranges.

Our Polarity tumblers are made with a minimum 50% recycled rPET content. They provide an optimal solution for smoothies, shakes, juices and more, available with flat or domed lids.

Jewel, Tri-Star’s range of cold food containers, are made from 100% recycled PET and are completely recyclable. These sustainable alternatives provide a high clarity container for optimum and premium food presentation. Jewel is also available in the Mini range.

Both of these products are a great choice ahead of the UK Government proposed tax on plastic products with less than 30% recycled content.

How do I switch to an alternative item?

Please call us on 020 8443 9100 or email us at enquiries@tri-star.co.uk to discuss product switches – we will be able to recommend alternative products. We are talking to our customers now about how we can work together to provide product alternatives, negating any major disruption to your business.

Tri-Star can also help with the incoming UK legislation that is set to ban or restrict single-use plastic straws and stirrers. Likely to be implemented April 2020, the ban will include all plastic straws and stirrers, including those made from PLA. At Tri-Star, we are equipped to offer our customers plastic-free alternatives.

For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss.