Coca-Cola Co.'s new PlantBottle will help to define the future of sustainable packaging for the global beverage giant, according to a company official.
Consumers want trusted brands and companies to address environmental issues and make branded packaging environmentally sustainable, Shell Huang said at the Packaging Conference, held Feb. 8-10 in Las Vegas.
The PlantBottle debuted in late 2009 and currently is available for Dasani-brand water on the U.S. West Coast and in Denmark. Dasani PlantBottles also are being used at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The bottle contains up to 30 percent plant content in the form of sugar cane and molasses used to make the monoethylene glycol molecule needed to produce PET resin.
Our goal is to make PET more sustainable, added Huang, who serves as packaging research director for Atlanta-based Coke. If you just do light-weighting [of PET bottles], you still need a certain weight to keep the bottle shape. We're thinking of end-of-life design.
Like a standard PET bottle, the PlantBottle is 100 percent recyclable, but Huang stressed that the PlantBottle is not biodegradable.
By design, we wanted the bottle to be recyclable, not biodegradable, she said. Energy will be reclaimed through recycling.
Huang added that Coke researchers are studying ways to use plant waste in PET production. That research eventually could yield a bottle that is 100 percent based on plant waste.
Coke looked at several options before choosing the plant-based MEG route, according to Huang.
We took a hard look at PLA [bioresin] for two or three years, she said. Polylactic acid makes sense for some applications, but not for our packaging needs.
Our own recycling business got us into post-consumer recovery, so we've tried to increase our recycled content. But our conclusion was to use renewable PET in the form of the PlantBottle.
The renewable PET being used for the PlantBottle is being sourced from an Asian supplier, but Huang declined to provide details.
Although the renewable PET currently is used in only a small portion of bottles for Coke products, the eventual impact could be significant, since Coke sells 1.6 billion servings of its products around the world every day. And non-refillable PET bottles accounted for 52 percent of Coke's packaging as recently as 2008.
If [using renewable PET] is fundamentally good for the environment, we should encourage everyone to do it, Huang said.
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