Companies Moving Away From Petroleum-Based Plastics

The use of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) will probably increase, thanks to a push from large manufacturers that have joined together to develop and use the plant-based resin in products ranging from bottles, apparel, footware, automotive fabrics, and carpets.Plastic bottles

The manufacturers — Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, H.J. Heinz Company, NIKE, Inc., and Procter & Gamble — have formed the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC), a strategic working group focused on accelerating the development and use of 100% plant-based PET materials and fiber in their products. PET is durable and lightweight, and does not require petroleum, as many other plastics do.

Recent high prices of crude oil have many companies searching for alternative raw materials and more natural ingredients for their products, reports Tiffany Hsu of the Los Angeles Times. Members of the PTC hope to find new uses for the plastic while supporting lifecycle studies to develop commercially viable and sustainable sourced materials made entirely from plant materials. The collaboration also seeks to standardize the terminology for companies and consumers.

The effort got the support of the World Wildlife Fund. Erin Simon, the advocacy group’s senior program officer of packaging, says:

Fossil fuels like oil have significant impacts to the planet’s biodiversity, climate and other natural systems. Sustainably managing our natural resources and finding alternatives to fossil fuels are both business and environmental imperatives.

The collaboration builds upon Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle initiative, which uses packaging made from a material derived from sugar cane, reports Reuters. Coca-Cola gets the sugar cane-based ethanol from Brazil and is working to develop a way to capture sugar from plant waste. Heinz had licensed the technology from Coke for some Heinz ketchup bottles.

One of the companies in the collaboration, Ford, is using soybean foam for its upholstery. Other companies are making petroleum-free memory foam mattresses, detergents, and candles.

Yet other companies are taking similar initiatives. PepsiCo announced last year that it is making a plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources, such as pine bark, grass, and corn husks. Its subsidiaries, Tropicana and Frito-Lay, also plan to make packaging made from orange peels and oat hulls.

Source: “Coke, Ford, Nike, others back petroleum-free, plant-based plastics,” LA Times, 6/5/12
Source: “Big U.S. firms team up on plant plastics,” Reuters, 6/5/12
Image by Dierk Schaefer, used under its Creative Commons license.