PLA stands for polylactic acid, which is a biodegradable polyester fiber made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane. The amazing PLA fiber is used to make everything from food packaging to batting. This relatively inexpensive fiber is a great eco-alternative in the craft world for conventional polyester fiber fill.
Although PLA fibers are biodegradable, it is important to note you can’t just toss them to the side of the road or put them in a land fill. The FAQ site for Ingeo™, the trademark name for PLA made by NatureWorks LLC, states the PLA products can be physically recycled, industrially composted, incinerated, or chemically converted back to lactic acid through hydrolis. Ingeo™ is actually classified as compostable rather than biodegradable in the US.
In the past few years, Ingeo™ fiber has been hitting mainstream markets. It offers the softness and drape of natural fibers, like cotton or silk, with the performance of synthetic fibers. It is often combined with cotton to provide improved wicking for high-performance sports wear. It is used in recyclable carpet tiles, coffee mugs, and one reader submission on Treehugger reports PLA-fiber bedding at Target.
For us eco-crafters, PLA fiber is available as batting, fiber fill, and pillow forms. I buy my PLA fiber pillow inserts at Joanns. The price is about 50% higher than regular polyester pillow forms, but I have found their frequent 40-50% off coupons help make up the difference. The pillows perform similar to the regular polyester versions. I find both can get lumpy over time, but for the price they are unbeatable.