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Partnership helps Coke push ahead with plant-based PET

By: Mike Verespej

September 27, 2012

ATLANTA (Sept. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET) — Continuing its promise to build up the worldwide capacity to produce bio-based mono ethylene glycol for its PET bottles, Coca-Cola Co. is partnering with an Indian company to build a second bMEG plant, this one in Brazil.

The 500,000 metric ton per year plant will be larger than the current plant in India that now supplies Coke with bMEG.

Atlanta-based Coke expects construction of the plant in Araraquara, Brazil, to begin by the end of the year with a target completion date of late 2014. Its partner is JBF Industries Ltd., a Mumbai, India, company that makes bottle-grade PET, PET chips, partially oriented yarn and fully drawn yarn in several locations worldwide.

Coke’s supplier that operates the bMEG plant in India is India Glycols Ltd., which is headquartered in Kolkata.

The Brazil plant is part of Coke’s plan to have plant-based resin in all of its plastic bottles by 2020. Mono ethylene glycol represents 30 percent of the weight of a PET bottle.

Coke’s ultimate goal is to have its PlantBottle made 100 percent from plants. It has invested in three other companies to develop plant-based purified terephthalic acid — which accounts for the other 70 percent of PET.

“This further demonstrates our commitment to growing plant-based PET and realizing our goal of having our first generation PlantBottle package in 100 percent of our bottles by 2020,” Scott Vitters, Coke’s general manager of the PlantBottle Packaging Innovation Platform, told Plastics News in an email. “It is our next big milestone in expanding [bMEG] supply globally.”

There is no timetable for when Coke will incorporate plant-based PTA into its bottles on a commercial scale. But in a recent interview with Plastics News, Vitters said the company’s PTA technology investments “are tracking where we expected them to be.”

“We want to move the growth of the PlantBottle worldwide with the right feedstock solutions,” Vitters said. “We will make continued investments to build out capacity for bio-ethylene glycol. We need to ensure the availability of plant feedstock in local markets. We believe you have to have feedstock locally where you build your plants.”

More than 10 billion PlantBottles — with bio-based mono ethylene glycol — have been sold in 24 countries since December 2009. By the end of the year, 8-10 percent of Coke’s total PET resin consumption will be plant-based, Vitters said.

“Our partnership with JBF Industries Ltd. will help us further expand global production,” added Ronald Lewis, vice president of procurement and chief procurement officer for Coca-Cola. No further details on the investment and partnership between the two companies were disclosed.

The plant in Brazil will use locally-grown sugarcane and sugarcane processing waste to make the ethanol feedstock. Roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil would be needed each year to make that same amount of ethylene, according to Coke.

To date, Coke said the PlantBottle has eliminated the equivalent of almost 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of 200,000 barrels of oil, from Coke’s PET packaging.

Equally as critical, the PlantBottle has also paid dividends for Coke in increased sales.

“We continue to see encouraging results from its ability to drive growth for our business,” Vitters said. “We’ve seen encouraging market signals and indicators of the PlantBottle being able to drive growth.”