The world's two largest bottled water companies are teaming up with a California firm to work on commercial-scale production of containers made of 100% bio-based PET.
The new effort, called the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, brings together Nestlé SA and Danone along with Origin Materials of West Sacramento, California.
Coca-Cola Co. has made its PlantBottle, which contains up to 30% plant material, famous in recent years. Coke worked with other partners on experimental production of bottles with 100% bio-based content.
But the new alliance sees a future with commercial production of bottles made from 100% renewable PET.
“Current technology on the market makes it possible to have 30% bioPET,” Origin Materials CEO John Bissell in a statement. “Our breakthrough technology aims to reach 100% bio-based bottles at commercial scale. With the help of our Alliance partners, Origin Materials will be able to scale up a technology which has already been proven at the pilot level.”
The company has produced bottle samples from 80% bio-based PET at its West Sacramento pilot plant. Work is expected to begin this year on a new facility that will allow for production of 60% or more bio-based PET starting next year. This phase has an initial production goal of 5,500 tonnes of bio-based PET.
PET is made from monoethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. MEG, which accounts for about 30% of the PET feedstock, can be made from plant-based ethanol. PTA, which accounts for the remaining 70%, is made from paraxylene, which typically is naphtha-based.
Origin Materials' technology converts cellulose into paraxylene.
The alliance hopes to develop a process for 95% bio-based content as soon as 2020, the group said. The ultimate objective is 100%.
“We believe it's possible to replace traditional fossil materials with bio-based packaging materials. By teaming up and bringing together our complementary expertise and resources, the alliance can move faster in developing 100% renewable and recyclable PET plastic at commercial scale,” said Danone research and development head Fredric Jouin in a statement.
Nestle and Danone decided to join forces on this effort after separately identifying the work of Origin Materials.
Origin Materials uses biomass such as previously used cardboard, sawdust and woodchips to develop its bio-based paraxylene. This approach does not divert resources or land from food production and is an important element of the effort for the partners. Future feedstock could include rice hulls, straw and agricultural residue.
“It's incredible to think that, in the near future, the industry will be able to use a renewably sourced packaging material, which does not compete with food production and contributes to a better planet,” said Klaus Hartwig, R&D head at Nestle Waters, in a statement.
Origin Materials was previously known as Micromidas Inc.
For its part, Coke has been working with three bioplastic partner companies to develop plant-based PET: Virent of Madison, Wisconsin; Avantium Research and Technology of Amsterdam; and Gevo Inc. of Englewood, Colorado.