Tom’s of Maine, a leading natural products company focused on oral and personal care, is looking to reduce end-of-life waste from its products even more by experimenting with biodegradable packaging made from potato starch.
Through a partnership with the University of Maine Orono and the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine, the natural personal care brand is studying the viability of recapturing local agricultural waste and using it to form polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable plastic resin.
“[The idea] comes from, no pun intended, where our roots are in Maine,” said Pam Scheeler, claims manager for Tom’s of Maine, who specializes in biochemistry. “There’s a lot of potato crop…and a lot of waste from potato production.”
The PLA will rely on non GMO potatoes that are below food-grade, meaning they would ordinarily be tossed in the garbage after harvest, according to the company.
Since potatoes are the largest commodity in Maine’s $1.2 billion annual agriculture industry, choosing potato starch as a feedstock just made sense, Scheeler explained. But university researchers said the same method could be used to recapture a wide range of waste products.