ATLANTA — With 1.9 billion servings per day, Coca-Cola Co. relies on a number of ways to deliver beverages around the world: fountain dispensers, glass and metal, for sure.
But there is no material that the company calls on more than PET.
The stalwart of soft drink packaging ships more than 60 percent of the company's volume each year to consumers, including 56 percent in non-returnable bottles and 7 percent in returnable bottles, according to Michael Knutzen, global program director for the company's PlantBottle program.
“Certainly, PET is our most important delivery system today,” he said.
Coca-Cola is in the midst of what has now become a years-long effort to make its PET more sustainable by introducing plant-based renewable feedstocks.
The goal, by 2020, is to have systems in place in strategic markets around the world to support the PlantBottle, which contains up to 30 percent PET made from sugar cane and sugar cane waste.
As the second most recognizable term on the earth, Coca-Cola touches billions of people around the world. OK, is the most recognizable term, Knutzen said, by the way.
Packaging, Knutzen said at the Packaging Conference in Atlanta, is the key cost component of the company's products, accounting for about 30 percent of the cost of a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola Classic, for example.
Coca-Cola now has served more than 30 billion beverages in 37 countries using PlantBottle since its introduction about five years ago, saving 625,000 barrels of oil in the process, Knutzen told conference attendees.
Collaboration with other non-competitive companies in developing the plant-based PET technology has been important for Coca-Cola, he said. Other well-known companies, such has H.J. Heinz Co., Procter & Gamble Co., Nike Inc., and Ford Motor Co. all have joined with Coca-Cola to form the PlantPET Technology Collaborative to advance the cause.
“This is an area where we want to continue growing PlantBottle. Obviously, there's a finite resource as we good down the supply chain path. We are looking for strategic partners who are willing to ride with us on this journey,” Knutzen said.
Coke is the world's largest buyer of PET.
The company hopes to one day use other materials, such as plant stems, fruit peels and even bark to make PET. It has a goal of using PlantBottle plastic as a component of all PET bottles by 2020.