Silostop has been selling oxygen barrier silage plastics for well over a decade, and we continue to innovate better, more sustainable ways to cover plastic.
We introduced reusable covers, which take the place of 5mil Black on White plastic. These covers provide protection above and beyond that of the one-time-use BW film, and they are reusable for 5-7 years or more, depending upon climate. This saves money for the producer and keeps thousands of pounds of plastic out of landfills.
Reducing plastic usage is the ultimate goal, however, the current best practices require at least some single-use plastic. Researchers have been working on more eco-friendly options- plastics that are more easily recycled, biodegradable, or even those films that could be fed directly to the cattle, creating zero waste! Let’s take a look at some of the potential products dairy farmers could use in the future.
You may be surprised to learn that the first potential “new” technology, isn’t that new at all! Casein plastic is made from milk, and it was used from 1900-1940 to make all sorts of ornaments and other decorative objects. At that time, a derivative of formaldehyde was used to make the plastic harden, which wasn’t healthy. But chemists have now created food safe casein polymers. Researchers Peggy Tomasula and Laetitia Bonnaillie at the United States Department of Agriculture have invented an edible casein film that can be used to package food items. It keeps oxygen out up to 500 times better than conventional plastics, and can be made thin and strong.
There are numerous companies out there who are making plastic from seaweed. One of them is Sway, which is based in California. The product has a 12-month shelf life and could entirely replace disposable shopping bags. The seaweed is grown in ocean farms, and Sway estimates the plants used to make Sway materials can sequester up to 20 times more carbon per acre than trees, all without requiring freshwater, land, pesticides or other inputs.
Polylactic acid (PLA) Plastic
Perhaps the type of compostable plastic most of us in the US are familiar with is corn-based plastic. Many disposable food containers and utensils use this technology, and have existed for a decade or more. PLA plastic is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca or sugar cane. PLA was discovered in the 1920s by Wallace Corothers, the scientist who invented nylon, but it never has been successfully commercialized on a large scale.
Today, PLA is used to make mulch films, cups, and even medical devices!
What’s Holding Us Back?
The main issue with these bioplastics is that they are expensive to produce. However, with current global restrictions on petroleum usage, supply chain issues, and increased costs around the world, the price of your standard silage film is rising rapidly as well.
Secondly, many of these films are designed to break down quickly. That’s not exactly what we want; covering silage for 12-18 months while being exposed to the weather would be a necessity.
Finally, many of the companies who sell silage plastic also sell many other types of plastic. Their factories aren’t calibrated to make biofilms, and they profit from conventional plastic. This is where Silostop is different; we make silage, not plastic. Our focus is on the producer and their herds, and it always has been. We are constantly evaluating potential replacements for conventional polyethylene, and we hope to one day move away from such products altogether.