Coca Cola launches a bottle made from 100% plant-based plastic
We are seeing some promising advances in the world of plant-based plastics, and not just from research groups at the cutting edge of materials science, but from traditional purveyors of petroleum-based plastics like Lego and Pepsi. Coca Cola's latest moves in the area bring its first ever bottle made from 100 percent plant-based plastic to the table, produced with technology it says is ready to be scaled up.
The newly unveiled plant-based bottle arrives more than a decade after the company first introduced its so-called PlantBottle, consisting of recyclable PET plastic made from up to 30 percent plant-based material. The other 70 percent was made from terephthalic acid (PTA) derived from oil-based sources, and this is the portion of the PlantBottle's makeup the company has been working to address.
The company has leveraged a technology developed by plant-based plastics company Virent to develop sugar from corn into a hydrocarbon called paraxylene (bPX), which was in turn converted into a plant-based terephthalic acid (bPTA). It bears noting that, as we've seen with ethanol production, the use of arable land for industrial crops comes with its own set of environmental impacts, though Coca Cola does say this process "lends itself to flexibility in the feedstock."
The other 30 percent is made from sugars that have been directly converted into monoethylene glycol (MEG) through a breakthrough process, which the company says can be adapted to use hardwood feedstocks from sawmills or other wood industry waste products.
“The inherent challenge with going through bioethanol is that you are competing with fuel,” said Dana Breed, Global R&D Director, Packaging and Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company. “We needed a next-generation MEG solution that addressed this challenge, but also one that could use second generation feedstock like forestry waste or agricultural byproducts. Our goal for plant-based PET is to use surplus agricultural products to minimize carbon footprint, so the combination of technologies brought by the partners for commercialization is an ideal fit with this strategy."
Coca Cola says this technology is ready to be commercially scaled up and that it plans to eliminate oil-based virgin PET from plastic bottles in Europe and Japan by 2030, and use recycled or renewable materials instead. It has produced a limited run of 900 of PlantBottle prototypes as first steps.
“We are taking significant steps to reduce use of ‘virgin’, oil-based plastic, as we work toward a circular economy and in support of a shared ambition of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Nancy Quan, Chief Technical and Innovation Officer, The Coca‑Cola Company. “We see plant-based plastics as playing a critical role in our overall PET mix in the future, supporting our objectives to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our reliance on ‘virgin’ fossil fuels and boost collection of PET in support of a circular economy.”
Source: Coca Cola