Coffee On The Cob – Are Corn Plastic Mugs Eco Friendly?

22 Aug

corn mugThis is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of ProformaGreen, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

There has been a growing conversation in the promotional items market about items made from corn plastic.

For us this conversation normally comes up when clients debate the pros and cons of corn plastic mugs like those offered by the manufacturer QuickPoint.

The argument normally goes like this.

Pro: Corn plastic mugs are safe and sturdy. They cost less than mugs of similar weight made from petroleum plastic. The QuickPoint products and others are union-made in the U.S.A from U.S. corn, therefore they are not shipped from overseas, which reduces their footprint, and are made by workers making U.S. wages. They are biodegradable.

Con: Using corn for plastic is believed to reduce the amount of corn in the global food chain. Contributing to a variety of social ills including food shortages and when combined with the increasing use of corn for ethanol, driving up the price of all sorts of goods. of

So like any other promotional items, think about your audience before recommending these products. What side of the argument are they on?

It would be great if people that know more about this subject could comment to this blog!

I like the mugs, most of our clients like them and the fact they are microwave safe and can take up to 160 degrees.

Here is Q&A QuickPoint released about the issue.

Q: How is corn converted to plastic?
A: Corn kernels are removed from the cob and soaked in a combination of sulfur dioxide and water. Corn swells and softens with the mild acidity loosening the gluten bonds of corn to release starch. The corn is ground and starch is separated and processed into sugar. This is fermented to create lactic acid into small pellets of PLA, the basic building block for plastic.

Q: What other products use corn plastic in their manufacturing?
A: Everything from plastic eating utensils to T-shirts. Common uses are deli food packaging, plastic wrap, and clothing fiber.

Q: Are corn plastics ecology friendly?
A: Certainly. While coming from an easily renewable source, corn plastics also can be composted. A plastic bag made from corn could decompose in about a month. A similar oil based bag could take centuries to decompose.

Q: Are corn plastics competitive in price with petroleum-based plastics?
A: Extremely, Corn plastics can remain competitive with oil prices in the mid $20’s per barrel.

Q: Is there enough corn grown in the U.S. to handle potential demand?
A: Certainly. In fact U.S. corn yields are increasing by 5 billion pounds a year.

Q: Have there been large users of corn plastic items?
A: Yes, Coca-Cola used 500,000 thin walled disposable cups at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Instead of a large trash problem, used cups were simply composted. (see my post on GreenWare cups)

corn mugQ: How does Quickpoint’s Corn Plastic Mugs compare to their standard petroleum based plastic mugs?
A: Quick Point’s Corn Mugs are slightly heavier in weight about 16% more than their standard counterparts. Corn mugs cannot be molded in clear or translucent colors. Both mugs have excellent thermal qualities because of their thick walled construction. Corn mugs are priced about 7% to 10% LESS than standard mugs.

For more details on the mugs from Quickpoint take a look at their website. If you have any specific question please contact me at

John Simonetta

Related Posts About The Environmental Impact of Using Corn:

Tangled Up In Green: Sobering Effects of Corn Prices

Biofuels Part I: Corn Ethanol Isn’t the Solution

2015: 30% of US Corn Harvest Will Be Gasoline

2 Responses to “Coffee On The Cob – Are Corn Plastic Mugs Eco Friendly?”

  1. Jeremiah August 29, 2008 at 6:09 PM #

    Corn is among the most resource-intensive crops you can grow. It requires high quantities of nitrogen, usually ammonium nitrate fertilizer derived from, yep, petroleum. This fertilizer runs off the land and into watersheds, where it is causing, among other things, huge dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico – areas of the ocean landscape in which nothing can survive. The manner in which corn is grown and fertilized also leads to widespread depletion of thin prairie topsoils and, over the long term, the creation of large areas of formerly arable land that must be abandoned.

    The world would be better off with far less corn being produced – for human consumption or for consumer goods.


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