A prototype of the first all-biobased PET bottle was shown last month by the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, at the 2015 World Expo in Milan. Coke’s PlantBottle program has been the company’s push to develop a more responsible plant-based alternative to traditional plastic packaging. The company made its first foray in 2009 when it began to produce PET bottles based on 30% plant-based renewable material—monoethylene glycol made from sugarcane ethanol. To date, Coca-Cola has produced 35 billion of these PlantBottles.
The new 100% biobased PET bottle is based on technology developed by biofuels and biochemical company Virent, Inc., Madison, Wis., which enables production of BioFormPX (paraxylene) from beet sugars instead of fossil fuels. Paraxylene is the key raw material used to product PTA (purified terephthalic acid) and DMT (dimethyl terephthalate) feedstocks, which account for the other 70% of bottle-grade PET.
Virent produced the plant-based paraxylene at its demonstration plant in Madison. Taiwan-based Far Eastern New Century then worked with Virent and Coca-Cola to convert the paraxylene into a renewable PET resin. Virent has been working with Coca-Cola since 2011, and Coke’s 2014 investment is supporting expansion of Virent’s demonstration plant. Virent is pursuing construction of a commercial-scale plant to help Coca-Cola scale raise production of the 100% renewable-content bottles, which it aims to commercialize by 2020.