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Corn Stalking

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bioplastic: corn-based biodegradable material, a substitute for polyethylene-based plastic; Buffalo Exchange's alternative to the shopping bag.

Maize hasn't exactly been well served by recent duplicitous TV ads from the Corn Refiners Association, which proffers high-fructose corn syrup as a dandy alternative to sugar. ("It's fine in moderation!" one mom cheerily insists.) The national clothing chain Buffalo Exchange (3312 Magazine St., 891-7443; www.buffaloexchange.com) offers a healthier derivative for the staple crop's nonfood stock: new bags for consumer purchases in which corn-based bioplastic, and not the usual polyethylene, is the primary ingredient.

  The bags, manufactured by Portland-based Trellis Earth Products Inc., debuted in stores nationwide in time for the past holiday shopping push. In addition to the biodegradable polymers, it utilizes a water-soluble ink that is eco-friendly. Trellis Earth's products — which also include plates, cups, bowls, takeout boxes and cutlery — are FDA-certified and meet the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) D6400 standard for compostable bioplastics: 90 percent decomposition in 90 days, and 100 percent in 180 days.

  Buffalo Exchange's adoption of the corn-based containers isn't the chain's only environmentally conscious program — or its only assault on plastics. "Tokens for Bags," in which customers may choose to donate a charitable gift for refusing a plastic bag, has raised more than $300,000 for nonprofits since its inception in 1994. The company estimates more than 6 million bags have been spared from spending an eternity in toxic landfills. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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