Renewable thermoformed produce packaging developed by Clear Lam Packaging, Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., earned the industry’s first U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified bio-based product label as part of a new voluntary labeling program to help purchasers choose products made with bio-based commodities.
“These companies are proving that innovation and agriculture can grow together to build a foundation for future growth in rural America as we work to win the future,” says deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “Consumer cleaning products, containers and the ‘intermediate materials’ used to manufacture them – made from agriculturally-sourced ingredients – help add value to commodities, create jobs in rural communities and can reduce our dependence on imported oil.”
Bio-based products are those composed wholly or significantly of agricultural ingredients – renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials. This new label indicates that the product has been independently certified to meet USDA BioPreferred program standards for bio-based content. Clear Lam was among the first companies to submit applications for the program, including five product lines in the packaging category.
“We’re proud to achieve this important distinction under USDA’s BioPreferred program, as it will bring greater clarity to the marketplace and spur more leading product manufacturers and consumers to embrace materials that reduce adverse environmental impacts,” says James Sanfilippo, president and CEO of Clear Lam Packaging. “Because many bio-based packages look the same as petroleum-based products, the Biobased Product Label lets everyone know they can trust manufacturer’s bio-based claims, as they’ve been verified through a reliable, rigorous third-party certification process.”
Clear Lam’s renewable thermoformed produce containers are produced from more than 93% plant-based bioplastics derived from Ingeo PLA (polylactic acid), along with ingredients that add performance characteristics such as enhanced impact and temperature resistance. These materials are part of the company’s Project EarthClear program and replace petroleum-based plastics with bio-based ingredients developed to reduce the introduction of fossil carbon into the atmosphere.
In addition to Clear Lam’s renewable thermoformed produce containers that will now carry the Biobased Product Label, the company has four other applications underway for its flexible and rigid packages. Currently, Clear Lam works with several leading retailers and consumer packaged goods companies to supply renewable packaging. Walmart has been a leader in introducing sustainable packaging into everyday use.
The Walmart private label Marketside branded organic lettuce containers are one of the first packages certified under the USDA BioPreferred program. These renewable containers are also used to package fruits, meats, cheeses, candy and nuts.
Clear Lam submitted additional packaging for the BioPreferred program, including packages for condiments, salty snacks and dairy-based items such as yogurt and cottage cheese.
Over the past seven years, Clear Lam has implemented a process of continuous improvement to produce bio-based plastics that perform as well as petroleum-based plastics. Developing innovative technologies that help protect the perishable product being packaged while using materials that have a minimal impact on the environment has been the key challenge to overcome.
Through implementation of the pre-existing USDA BioPreferred program, the secretary of agriculture designated 5,100 bio-based products for preferred purchasing by Federal agencies. The new label makes identification of these products easier for Federal buyers and will increase awareness of these high-value products in commercial and consumer markets. USDA estimates that there are 20,000 bio-based products currently being manufactured in the United States.
USDA’s BioPreferred program was created by the 2002 Farm Bill to increase the purchase and use of bio-based products within the Federal government. Congress reauthorized and strengthened the program in the 2008 Farm Bill to further promote the sale of bio-based products. With the launch of this new Biobased Product Label, USDA’s BioPreferred program is now comprised of two parts - a bio-based product procurement preference program for Federal agencies, and a voluntary labeling initiative for the broad-scale marketing of bio-based products. To learn more, go to www.biopreferred.gov.
For nearly a decade, Clear Lam has invested extensively in research and development to commercialize new packaging technologies that minimize the impact on the environment. These efforts include three product lines developed for Clear Lam’s Project EarthClear program - flexible and rigid packaging made from renewable raw materials, bioplastics, cellophane and paper (not petroleum-based feedstocks); flexible and rigid packaging made with recycled plastic or paper; and lightweighting materials to eliminate heavy cans, bottles and jars. Today Clear Lam is one of the world’s largest extruders and thermoformers of plant-based Ingeo PLA.
To learn more about Clear Lam and the Project EarthClear program, go to www.projectearthclear.com.
About Clear Lam Packaging
Founded in 1969, Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of rigid and flexible packaging materials for thousands of food, personal health care and other consumer products. With seven manufacturing facilities (four in the United States and three in China), Clear Lam employs more than 700 people. Vertically integrated from design to manufacturing, Clear Lam has the largest thermoforming platforms in the world. Ineo is a registered trademark of NatureWorks LLC. EarthClear is a trademark of Clear Lam Packaging, Inc.