Coca-Cola Co. is taking a leading role in advancing bio-based plastics. That's been obvious for about two years, since the company introduced PET bottles made, in part, from renewable monoethylene glycol. Now the company is working on the next step, to make large quantities of its bottles from 100 percent plant-based plastics. Plastics News' staff reporter Mike Verespej reported yesterday how Coke is making multi-million dollar investments in three bio-based companies: Virent Inc., Gevo Inc. and Avantium Research and Technology. Mike's story was one of the first on the announcement, but more importantly it was probably the most thorough. That's because he was already quite familiar with all three of Coke's new partners and the technology that they bring to the table. Mike wrote in detail about Virent and Gevo earlier this year. I encourage PN readers who are interested in more information about bio-based plastics to re-read that story: "Cost, viability will determine bio-winners." And while you're mining our archives, check out my April 25 column on Coke's PET recycling problems. I noted at the time:
Coke is making a big push into bio-based materials this year. The company has said it expects to convert all of its PET packaging to PlantBottle materials -- made from sugar-cane ethanol -- by 2020. We could be headed for a debate on the merits of recycled vs. bio-based content in plastics packaging. If so, there will be winners and losers -- and I doubt Coke will be on the losing side.I got some criticism from readers for that comment. And it may be that Coke will stay committed to both goals: using more recycled content and using bio-based plastics. But I feel it's still worth watching. Finally, let me highlight a comment from Mike's story yesterday. He wrote that Rick Frazier, Coke's vice president of commercial bottle supply, said moving to bottles made entirely from plants is imperative because of Coke's goal is to double the daily serving from Coca-Cola beverages to 3 billion by 2020. "To double our business in a sustainable way, we must find a new way to do more with less," he said. At the risk of repeating myself: Coke has some big goals that are related directly to plastics packaging. This is a company that looks further ahead than most OEMs. I would argue that even companies that don't supply Coke -- even companies that aren't in the packaging sector -- are going to be impacted by this decision.