The Viora Lid is made out of high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) – a recyclable material widely used in the food packaging industry. The vast majority of hot cup lids today are made out of HIPS. Still, we occasionally get asked why the Viora Lid is not made from a compostable plastic. The short answer is that, at least for now, compostable plastics don’t make sense for hot cup lids.
We spent years researching and testing various “green” plastics, including polylactic acid (“PLA”), Polyhydroxyalkanoate (“PHA”), and potato based plastics. PLA is the one material that has achieved some commercial success in the form of ‘compostable’ lids. However, in our testing, heat deflection temperature is a problem with PLA (the lid gets too soft when hot). And of course, the material cost of PLA is significantly higher.
In addition, the Viora Lid is designed specifically to allow customers to enjoy the aroma of their coffee. Several of the “green” plastics that we tested introduced odors that detracted from that experience. Incidentally, odor can be a problem with HIPS too. We have done a tremendous amount of work to find a particular HIPS that is far below the detectable odor limit so that no matter how sensitive the customer’s nose, with a Viora Lid they always get to enjoy the aroma of their coffee.
But the thing that really drove us to use HIPS was the literature indicating that PLA is not actually very “green,” notwithstanding the careful marketing and research funded by PLA manufacturers. PLA uses food stock (corn; sometimes GMO corn) and takes significant energy to produce. In addition, PLA can contaminate other recycling waste streams and, unless taken to rare commercial composting facilities, can produce greenhouse gases during decomposition. In other words, PLA is suspect from an environmental perspective alone. You can find links to a few articles about PLA below.
Our highest priority remains delivering a natural drinking experience, but our ultimate goal is to make the very best lid in every respect. While we are going to market with a lid made from HIPS, we are really material agnostic and could make lids out of PLA if the case for doing so makes sense. From everything we have read, it is our sense that the real green solution will be more effective recycling once better recyclable plastics that work well for hot cup lid applications (and better recycling infrastructure) become available. For example, we are watching the expanded PET being commercialized by MicroGreen, as well as filled polypropylenes that are being developed by several companies.
Please share your thoughts on lid materials. We are always open to learning more.
Links to articles: