Food packaging: Pushing away from petroleum
Coca-Cola unveils the first 100 percent plant-based PET bottle and begins work on its commercialization.
As more companies continue to beef up their sustainable manufacturing practices, Coca-Cola has introduced a PET plastic bottle made entirely from sugarcane. The company’s PlantBottle technology is designed to reduce the amount of petroleum used in packaging, replacing it with a more sustainable alternative that is fully recyclable.
“PlantBottle packaging is reducing our dependence on fossil fuel and increasing our use of renewable materials,” says Mackenzie Anderson, environmental communications manager for Coca-Cola. “We focus on delivering the quality beverages our consumers expect in the most efficient way possible, with a key focus on recyclability, minimizing resources and increasing the use of recycled and renewable materials.”
PlantBottle packaging was introduced in 2009 as part of the company’s vision to develop more responsible packaging. Its production involves converting natural sugars found in plants into the ingredients for making PET plastic bottles. Over 35 billion PlantBottles in the currently available version, which is made from up to 30 percent plant-based materials, have been distributed in nearly 40 countries. The company estimates the technology has eliminated more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saved more than 36 million gallons of gas.
“We know natural resources are stressed, and communities are forced to do more with less,” Anderson says. “Since our packaging is the last interaction we have with our consumers, it needs to remind them of our commitment to sustainability.”
Introduced at the most recent World Expo in Milan, Italy, the 100 percent plant-based bottles are not ready to be shipped just yet. The company is working on a sustainable, commercial solution to distribute the bottles in more than 200 countries.
“We announced agreements with three biotechnology firms to support the move from lab to commercial scale,” says Anderson. “These three companies will help us make a significant step toward reaching our goal of commercializing PlantBottle packaging made entirely from plant-based materials with the next few years.”
In a larger effort, Coca-Cola has partnered with a number of companies, such as H.J. Heinz and Procter & Gamble, to form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative. This organization supports research to enable commercially viable, sustainably sourced, 100 percent plant-based PET plastic. The company is also a member of the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, which was formed to help companies responsibly select feedstocks for biobased plastics.
Additionally, Liquid Light, a process technology company that makes chemicals from carbon dioxide, recently signed an agreement with The Coca-Cola Company to develop a more efficient way to use plant materials to make mono-ethylene glycol (MEG). MEG is one of the components used to make the plant-based PET plastic bottle.