“The Polymer and Packaging Industry has always been very dynamic. The product’ packaging updates, renews and replaces in a short period of time,” said Chetan Jain of Taurus Packaging.
“I have always been a supporter of holistic technologies that create significant steps in closing the loop. With 15 years of active experience and comprehensive exposure, I tend to implement it everywhere I can,” said Chetan Jain, global advisor and director at Taurus Packaging.
Chetan Jain is talking about PLA, or Polylactic Acid. This is a plant-based plastic made from fermented starch. It is comparatively new plastic material compared to the other shrink sleeve materials in the industry. PLA is mostly manufactured from corn. It is also made from sugarcane in some regions. PLA is given due prominence because of its biocompatible polyester property.
Jain said, “PLA is given due prominence because of its biocompatible polyester property. It is developed in a four-step process: fermentation, separation, lactide conversion, and polymerisation.”
PLA is biodegradable, with a thickness in the range of 45–60 microns. It can be kept at a good temperature of more than 38 °C or less than 4 °C. It can be printed with most printing technologies, like gravure, flexo (solvent, water-based and UV), rotary UV offset and digital printing.
Jain added, “PLA has high transparency, good gloss, and strong ink adhesion. It also shows effective shrinkage with all types of commercially available shrink tunnels and applications, like infrared, steam flow and hot air.”
PLA has a few shortfalls. Biodegradation is a slow process that must be properly processed in landfills. PLA has not been assigned any code yet and is considered to fall under the resin code category. It is classified as "other plastics." The availability is restricted to certain markets. And the most daunting is the price, which is higher than the price of PVC and PETG.
Although PLA has been in the industry for quite a while, the usage is not considered by the brands. This is mostly due to a lack of information and a misunderstanding of the application process..
Chetan Jain said, “As a shrink sleeve consultant, I advise brands to know more about PLA and then subsequently take a decision as per the market's upcoming, future-oriented shrink sleeves or labels to help the environment.”