Tranter Graphics Corn Cup For Hot Liquids

17 May

Do you serve clients hot coffee in your waiting room? Do you sell a hot beverage product? Is your office trying to get away from Styrofoam cups?

There are a number of promotional item manufacturers working with corn based plastic cups for cool and cold liquids. As I have mentioned before I think these cups are a great idea as a replacement for plastic cups at ballgames, festivals and the like.

The argument is that large events create a lot of trash. Using corn based disposable cups reduces the impact of that waste because unlike petroleum based cups, these corn cups biodegrade in a managed composting facility in about 90 days.

So what about hot liquids? Tranter Graphics – one of the manufacturers of the clear corn cups – is now offering a solid disposable cup designed for hot liquids in 10oz, 12oz and 16oz models. I encourage all ecopreneurists that run a business using disposable cups to take a look at these items.

Why? Well let me use a statistic from Tranter Graphics to answer that. They point out that combined individual consumers in the United States use about 40 billion paper and 35 billion plastic and foam cold cups every year. 16 billion paper hot cups and 25 billion foam hot cups are also used in the United States every year. That is a lot of trash. We have to start fixing these somewhere.

Yes, simply not using disposable cups is ideal, however if disposable is going to be used, compostable cups have to be the way to go.

Tranter Graphic markets their cup under the name ecotainer™, with a little “e”.  The units are BPI certified, the  ecotainer™ received certification from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) on August 4, 2006. (The BPI is an independent organization that reviews and certifies products as meeting ASTM D6400 specifications for compostability.)

When we asked for additional information on the ecotainer™, Tranter Graphics sent us a rather lengthy Q&A sheet. Here are a few highlights.

Q What makes ecotainer packaging different from “standard” cups and containers?
A In standard paper cups and containers, the paperboard used is coated with a petrochemical based plastic (polyethylene) to make it liquid resistant.  ecotainer products are also made from plastic coated paperboard, but the plastic used in this cup is polylactic acid (PLA) made from plants.  Now, both the fiber and coating used to make the cup come from fully renewable materials.  We believe this is a small step toward a more sustainable future.

Q There have been clear PLA cold cups in the market for some time, these clear cups cannot be exposed to heat, without quickly deforming…  Will the same happen with these ecotainerTM PLA coated products?
A No.  The PLA used in ecotainer packaging has been modified to maintain the required performance characteristics for paperboard packaging under elevated temperatures. This packaging has demonstrated performance in the market as a hot beverage cup and food container in the market for more than two years.

Q Won’t the coating on the cup dissolve when filled with liquid if it is made with PLA?
A No, but this is one of the most popular misconceptions associated with this product.  The coating is not water soluble and will not dissolve in use with hot or cold beverages.  It can, however, be consumed by microbes over time in a municipal compost environment.

Q Is this new “bio” plastic made from plants safe?
A Yes.  The process used to make this material starts with plant sugars and ends with a non-toxic plastic similar to other materials used to package food.  It is FDA approved, and although this application (coating paperboard) is relatively new, this material is used extensively for packaging produce and other food items.

Q What kind of inks are used on ecotainerTM packaging?
A. Water-based inks for flexography printing and the inks are CONEG and FDA direct food compliant.

Q Is ecotainer packaging elemental chlorine free?
A Yes.  A elemental Chlorine-free bleaching process is used for manufacturing this  paperboard product.

Q Can this material be recycled?
A Yes, in the limited municipalities which accept poly-coated paperboard and packaging. Companies have worked with local recyclers to integrate ecotainer™ into the office paper waste stream.

Q Aren’t all paper cups and containers biodegradable?
A No. Although paper is generally biodegradable, the traditional coatings for making these products usually prevent them from meeting compostability requirements. This new PLA coated material is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute to conform to ASTM standards for municipal composting.

Q Can I throw ecotainer™ products on the side of the road?
A No. These products are not intended to be immediately degradable in a “roadside” environment. Ideally these products are either composted or recycled. We encourage all of our ecotainer™ customers to take advantage of, and support more environmentally friendly disposable options.

Q Should ecotainer™ products be considered “sustainable” packaging?
A While we believe ecotainer™products are a step in the right direction, we won’t go so far as to call it “sustainable” packaging. The accepted definition of sustainable packaging (Sustainable Packaging Coalition) requires a product be created and transported with fully renewable resources and that the disposal has no impact on the environment. We aren’t there yet, but are confident this cup and our customer’s efforts to establish systems to collect it in-store, demonstrate progress in the right direction.

Q How about the lids for these cups and containers? Are they currently made out of PLA material or other non-petroleum plastic?
A At this time, the progress made on bio-plastics has not yet yielded a material that can perform in both hot and cold applications. We are working with a number of manufactures to develop materials that will meet our three principle criteria for ecotainer™ products (fully compostable, fully renewable, and smaller environmental footprint) in the near future.

Q This is compostable packaging, but what happens if it ends up in a landfill? Have we really accomplished anything?
A Yes, the upstream benefits of sourcing fully renewable materials with improved environmental characteristics are real regardless of the end-of-use options. These benefits include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced dependence on petrochemical materials and enabling other material recovery options.

Q What kind of impact can I have as a single consumer?
A Combined individual consumers in the United States alone use about 40 billion paper and 35 billion plastic and foam cold cups every year. 16 billion paper hot cups and 25 billion foam hot cups are also used in the United States every year. Together, single consumers can impact the direction taken by retailers and ultimately by packaging suppliers.

If you are an ASI distributor Susan Corn – no kidding – is the contact to talk to at Tranter Graphics. If you are interested in these cups to promote your own business contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

3 Responses to “Tranter Graphics Corn Cup For Hot Liquids”

  1. Z May 18, 2009 at 9:47 AM #

    This is a very interesting idea. Seems that corn is being used in many different ways. It is good that they are compost able and are not made of Styrofoam. Nothing could be worse than Styrofoam. Though they are convenient, I am still a fan of providing washable and reusable ceramic mugs whenever possible. Though I wonder if people will use more of these cups because they are under the impression it is better. The key is to balance waste with consumption. I will be interested in seeing how many companies will install these in their offices if the everyday consumer will be able to see these products in their local supermarkets.

    This is exactly the kind of company that we at the University of Vermont Sustainability Institute ( wish to cultivate; a new wave of social entrepreneurship that is green and sustainable.

  2. Joanne Estes May 19, 2009 at 6:25 PM #

    This is an amazing article. Just imagining the possibility of an alternative to all of the cups that end up in the landfills is exciting. Thanks for the information. I will pass it on.

  3. Dave May 22, 2009 at 12:41 AM #

    Great article. Its refreshing to see that the composting revolution is about to begin. Couple things though:

    1. The major issue with PLA cups and all “compostable” food containers for that matter, is human behavior. Our society is still not yet programed to throw these things away in “compost bins” more less haul them away to your local composting facility. I believe as awareness spreads (like this article), legislation will be adopted to promote composting, just like the recycling trend 15 years ago.

    2. If I’m not mistaken, Ecotainer is a line of PLA cups manufactured by International Paper. Still, kudos to the guys at Proforma for getting the word out.

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