Coca-Cola partners for solutions to PlantBottle packaging

The Coca-Cola Company announced multi-million dollar partnership agreements with three biotechnology companies to accelerate development of the first commercial solutions for next-generation PlantBottle™ packaging made from 100 percent plant-based materials.

This effort to commercialize a plastic bottle made entirely from plants builds on the company’s introduction and roll-out of its first generation PlantBottle package which was the first ever recyclable PET beverage bottle made partially from plants. Since introduced in 2009, the company has already distributed more than 10 billion PlantBottle packages in 20 countries worldwide.

Agreements with Virent, Gevo and Avantium – developers of plant-based alternatives to materials traditionally made from fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources – were signed following an in-depth two-year analysis of different technologies by The Coca-Cola Company’s R&D team and technical advisory board.

“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 The Coca-Cola Company. “This is a significant R&D investment in packaging innovation and is the next step toward our vision of creating all of our plastic packaging from responsibly sourced plant-based materials.”

Agreements with these three companies will help The Coca-Cola Company support its long-term commitments through sustainable practices in sourcing and packaging supply. While Virent, Gevo and Avantium will follow their own route to make bio-based materials, all materials will be developed in line with company and industry recycling requirements.

“Virent’s long term agreements with The Coca-Cola Company are pioneering milestones in the commercialization of our technology to produce plant-based materials” said Virent CEO Lee Edwards. “Our patented 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 percent plant-based PET packaging.” PET made from Virent’s bio-based paraxylene features the same high quality and recyclability as materials used today, with the added benefit of being made from a wide range of renewable materials. The company is targeting early 2015 for the opening of its first full-scale commercial plant.

The Coca-Cola Company’s first generation PlantBottle packaging is the only fully recyclable PET bottle made with up to 30 percent plant-based material available today. PlantBottle packaging is made up of two components: mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), which makes up 30 percent of the PET, and is already made from plant materials, and purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which makes up the other 70 percent. In this next step, PTA will be replaced with plant-based materials, too.

PlantBottle packaging makes a difference by reducing dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels and minimizing the carbon impact of PET plastic. It is estimated the use of PlantBottle packaging in the first two years alone has helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Coca-Cola will continue to make investments in PlantBottle technology and aims to use PlantBottle packaging for the company’s entire virgin PET supply by 2020.

Separately, Coca-Cola already produces a fully recyclable high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic that is made from 100 percent plant material and is available through Odwalla™ juice brand products. While HDPE is an ideal package for some refrigerated juice products, it is not suitable for shelf-stable carbonated and still beverages.