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Coca-Cola targets 100% plant-based bottle by 2017

By Rory Harrington, 16-Dec-2011

Related topics: Packaging Technology, Packaging, Going green

Coca-Cola said it has signed three joint ventures that could see its eco-PET bottle made from 100% plant-based material and brought to market within five or six years.

The global drinks giant announced yesterday it had signed multi-million dollar partnerships with a trio of biotechnology companies in a bid to produce the material for its PlantBottle on the necessary commercial global scale.

The company’s recyclable PlantBottle, rolled out in 2009, is currently made from 30% plant-based material - MEG (mono-ethylene glycol) – with PTA (purified terephthalic acid) making up the other 70%.

Coca-Cola said the agreements with Virent, Gevo and Avantium would lead to the PTA being replaced with plant-based materials.

A company spokeswoman told FoodProductionDaily.com: Based on our research in this area we estimate initial commercially viable, sustainable, cost effective 100% PlantBottle PET packaging material availability in the next five to six years from a variety of potential bio-mass feedstocks. A variety of materials, including Brazilian sugarcane, molasses and plant residual material will be evaluated.”

The firm said it was bidding to use PlantBottle packaging for its entire virgin PET supply by 2020.

Commercial scale

Coca-Cola said the challenge was not one of technology development but rather of scaling up from the laboratory to meet global demand. It said that since its launch two years ago more than 10bn PlantBottle packages had been distributed in 20 countries.

"While the technology to make bio-based materials in a lab has been available for years, we believe Virent, Gevo and Avantium are companies that possess technologies that have high potential for creating them on a global commercial scale within the next few years," said Rick Frazier, company vice president, commercial product supply.

While the three biotech firms would follow their own route to make bio-based materials, all materials would be developed in line with its and industry recycling requirements, said Coca-Cola.

“As with our bottle that’s currently in market, the plant materials used to create the bottle will be selected based on sustainability criteria to ensure they do not compete with food crops and are capable of delivering improved environmental performance,” said the spokesperson.

Development projects

Virent said its technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based sugars into a full range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including bio-based paraxylene - a key component needed to deliver 100% plant-based PET packaging.

The company is targeting early 2015 for the opening of its first full-scale commercial plant, said CEO Lee Edwards.

Gevo said its agreement with Coke would see it develop and commercialise technology to produce paraxylene from bio-based isobutanol. Avantium said it would be focusing on its patented ‘YXY’ technology produces bio-based PEF bottles

“Our production process fits with existing supply and manufacturing chains and we are targeting commercial production in the next few years,” said CEO Tom van Aken.