Coca-Cola is working with biotechnology firms Virent, Gevo, and Avantium on beverage bottles made from plant-based materials. The effort builds on Coca-Cola’s first-ever recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, which is partially made from plants. The company has already sold more than 10 billion of its PlantBottles in 20 countries since introducing it in 2009.
PlantBottle packaging is made of monoethylene glycol (MEG) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA). The next-generation biomaterial bottle will replace PTA with plant-based materials.
Coke eventually wants to convert all of its plastic packaging into plant-based materials. “While the technology to make biomaterials in the lab has been around for years, we believe Virent, Gevo, and Avantium can make them on a globally commercial scale within the next few years,” says Coca-Cola’s Rick Frazier, vice president, commercial product supply. The three companies will develop all the materials and make sure they meet all of Coca-Cola’s and the industry’s recycling requirements.
Virent in Madison, Wis., has patented technology that uses catalytic chemistry to turn plant-based sugars into a range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including bio-based paraxylene — a key component needed for 100% plant-based PET packaging. PET made from Virent’s bio-based paraxylene is said to have the same quality and recyclability as materials used today, but is made from renewable materials. The company is targeting early 2015 for the opening of its first full-scale commercial plant. Gevo in Englewood, Colo., will also support the paraxylene endeavor.
Avantium in Amsterdam has technology said to produce bio-based PEF bottles with good properties at a competitive price. The process, called YXY, starts with plant-based feedstock which is used to make packaging materials such as PEF bottles. “We have produced PEF bottles with promising barrier and thermal properties,” says company CEO Tom van Aken.