GLOBAL - In 2009, Coca-Cola launched its biobased PET bottle. Since then, 15 billion bottles across 25 countries have been sold in the “PlantBottle” – a major success story for Coca-Cola and one of the most important developments for the bioplastics industry.
One of the last countries to which the PlantBottle was introduced to earlier this month was China (accounting for about 8% of Coke’s PET bottles in 2012). By 2020, Coke plans to make all of its PET bottles using first-generation PlantBottle material, said Scott Vitters, general manager of the PlantBottle Sustainable Packaging Platform.
PlantBottles are made with a PET resin containing biobased monoethylene glycol (MEG). Currently, MEG is about 30% of the PET plastic; purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, makes up the remaining 70% In the next few years, Coke hopes to conquer that 70%.
While already available at lab-scale, the second generation plant bottle still needs to become a commercially viable product that can be bought in the marketplace. What is more, building scale is the key to making bioplastics a cost-competitive material, and while there may be extra costs upfront, it will pay off in the long run, Vitters said.
Biobased PET, however is not going to stop here – in the market segment bottles. Many more markets could make good use of an innovative material like biobased PET. Realising this potential, Coca-Cola wants to build up the supply chain to support a broader industry change.
“The meaning of our work isn’t just making positive change for our bottles, but creative positive change in your car, in the carpet you walk on, in the clothes you wear … the polyester universe is huge,” Vitters said.
Coke has invested millions with three R&D firms — Virent (USA), and Gevo (USA) to develop biobased PTA. With a third partner, Avantium (the Netherlands), Coke is exploring another 100% biobased plastic material. Furthermore, Coke has teamed up with other major brand owners, such as Nike and Ford Motor, and created “The Plant PET Technology Collaborative”.
Currently, Coke and JBF Industries Ltd (India) are setting up a biobased MEG plant in Brazil, which is expected to go on line in 2014. The JBF plant will help Coke reach its 2020 goal more easily, but it’s a “world-scale” facility — one that’s an example of how bioplastics are about more than just a bottle, Vitters said.
This article was reproduced with permission from European Bioplastics.