Stonyfield Farms adds sustainable packaging

by Keith Nunes
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LONDONDERRY, N.H. — Stonyfield Farms has begun packaging some of its yogurt products in a cup made using 93% polylactic acid, a plastic derived from corn.

“Our new made from plants yogurt cup is the latest step in Stonyfield’s more than 20-year journey to make sustainable packaging that people can feel good about,” said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s president and “CE-Yo.” “Moms trust us to do the right thing and that’s something we take very seriously. We’ve worked hard to produce a plant-based cup that’s an easy way for moms to pay it forward to their kids.”

The new initiative has created several challenges for the company. For example, Stonyfield uses an offset program to produce a sustainably grown amount of corn equal to the amount used for the packaging. By taking an equivalent amount of bioengineered corn out of production, Stonyfield is not supporting bioengineering, according to the company.

Recycling is also a challenge. Like the polystyrene plastic packaging it is replacing, the polylactic acid-based cup is not recyclable in most communities due to lack of recycling infrastructure. As demand increases, the company said the situation will improve but, for now, the new multipack cups should be considered non-recyclable.

“This new yogurt cup is something we’ve been working to achieve for years and we are excited to be able to introduce it now,” said Nancy Hirshberg, vice-president of Natural Resources. “Even without a recycling option in the early stages, plant-based plastic is already better for the planet than polystyrene because it produces lower carbon emissions and requires less fossil fuel to make. As this new type of plastic become commonplace, the potential environmental benefits only get better.”

Stonyfield Farms is not the first food company to package products using materials derived from polylactic acid. In February, Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, Inc., introduced the packaging to its SunChips line of products. The company recently announced it was scaling back use of the packaging because consumers complained it was too noisy due to a structure that made the bag more rigid.

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