For the first time, a PET resin made from carbon captured from greenhouse gas emissions has been successfully produced and used in packaging applications.
Partners LanzaTech Global, Inc., a Skokie, Ill.-based carbon capture and transformation (“CCT”) company and packaging specialist Plastipak Packaging, headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., recently announced the launch of PPKNatura, the world’s first PET resin made with LanzaTech’s captured carbon emission-based monoethylene glycol, or MEG.
PET is a polyester consisting of 70 percent terephthalic acid and 30 percent MEG by weight. MEG is most commonly produced from virgin fossil sources, using ethylene as the starting material, although plant-based MEG is also available.
LanzaTech’s CarbonSmart MEG uses carbon emissions from steel mills or gasified waste biomass. The technology provides a sustainable pathway to produce a range of platform chemicals. In this case, bioengineered bacteria convert carbon emissions directly into MEG through fermentation, "much like a brewery," said LanzaTech. The technology bypasses the need for an ethanol intermediate, and simplifies the MEG supply chain.
“LanzaTech’s commercial technology is designed to enable our partners in diverse industries to reduce their carbon footprint and overall environmental impact,” said CEO Jennifer Holmgren.
The MEG produced in this way can be used to produce a low-carbon, virgin-quality PET suitable for traditional food and pharmaceutical grade packaging and other sensitive applications, including hot-fill, refillables, and applications where a low crystallinity is required, as well as non-packaging applications. PPKNatura resin is a drop-in material and packaging made from this can be fully recycled at the end of its life, keeping the carbon in a circular material cycle.
If the use of fossil fuels cannot be avoided, it makes sense to include greenhouse gases in products so that the gases do not contribute to global warming and climate change, noted Christoph Meili, a specialist in life cycle assessments at WWF Switzerland.
“Our partnership with Plastipak is critical to demonstrating what is possible today. Today we are producing food- and pharmaceutical-grade packaging and are well on our way to creating a more sustainable future for all,” added Holmgren.
Swiss retailer Migros and its subsidiary Mibelle Group became the first to use this PET in in-house brand packaging, including PET bottles for smoothies. The retailer has also packaged its household cleaning products in containers made using LanzaTech ethanol as a key ingredient.
Partnering with LanzaTech allows Plastipak to move forward on the path towards the production of PET with a lower environmental impact.
“The use of CarbonSmart MEG is a first and important milestone in our journey toward this goal, and combined with the use of renewable electricity in the production process, has contributed to significant progress in indicators such as carbon reduction and use of fossil resources,” said Pedro Martins, executive managing director Europe for Plastipak.