Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to make plastic soda bottles out of 100% plant-based materials. Last week, media outlets reported that both companies gave updates on their progress.
Coca-Cola announced that it plans to work with three biotech companies and could have all-plant bottles out to consumers in a few years. PepsiCo, which said in March that it had developed an all-plant bottle, announced last week that the company was on schedule for a production test-run of 200,000 of those bottles.
“Coke was the first out of the gate in the green bottle race, when in 2009 it began selling Dasani water in the United States in bottles made with up to 30 percent plant-based plastics,” and last week, the company added that all of its bottles would meet that standard by 2020, writes William Neuman for The New York Times. (Coke’s Odwalla juice brand is sold in all-plant bottles appropriate for juice.)
Setting a target date for producing Coke’s all-plant bottles is trickier. According to the Associated Press:
‘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, vice president of commercial product supply for [Coca-Cola].
Denise H. Lefebvre, PepsiCo’s vice president for global beverage packaging, told The New York Times that Pepsi was also “teaming up with companies that are developing different ways of solving the plastic puzzle.” She declined, however, “to identify the partners.”
Pepsi is also hesitant to set a date for large-scale production of all-plant bottles. Lefebvre added to Neuman that if the test doesn’t prove that the new technologies are cost-effective on a commercial scale, more experimentation will be needed.
Soda bottles are made from a type of plastic known as PET, which commonly has two main components. One, called MEG, makes up about 30 percent of a bottle’s weight, and is what Coke has been producing from plant sources, using sugarcane grown in Brazil.
The other component, called PTA, makes up 70 percent of a bottle’s weight. Scientists have been able to make PTA from plant materials in the laboratory but pulling off the same trick on an industrial scale has proved more difficult.
Neuman reports that Pepsi has said it will use agricultural waste products, such as corn husks, pine bark, or orange peels to make its plastic bottles, and that Coke’s prospective materials include wastes and crops grown for plastic production.
Source: “The Race to Greener Bottles Could Be Long,” The New York Times, 12/15/11
Source: “Coca-Cola advances bottle technology using plants,” Associated Press via Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/15/11
Image by cam_rich345 (Chris “Rice”), used under its Creative Commons license.
Rachel Petkewich is a freelance science writer and editor. She has worked as a research scientist in the chemical industry and spent eight years as a staff writer and editor at various science journals and magazines, including Chemical & Engineering News.