After working for almost a decade with the US-based sustainable technology company Anellotech on the development of a 100% plant-based PET bottle, Suntory Group has now announced that the partnership has yielded a breakthrough.
The Japanese beverage giant has successfully created a prototype PET bottle made from 100% plant-based materials, a development that represents a crucial step toward its aim to use 100% sustainable PET bottles globally by 2030, eliminating all petroleum-based virgin plastic from its global PET supply.
PET is produced using two raw materials, 70% terephthalic acid (PTA) and 30% mono ethylene glycol (MEG). While it has been possible to produce bio-based MEG for many years now - Suntory has been using plant-based MEG made from molasses in its Suntory Tennensui mineral water brand in Japan since 2013 - the development of bio-based PTA has been a challenge.
It is a challenge that Anellotech has been working on since it was founded in 2008. The company’s founders, seeking to commercialise the production of cost-competitive renewable chemicals and fuels from non- food biomass or waste plastics, developed and patented their Bio-TCat technology to produce bio-based BTX aromatics. The technology is an efficient thermal catalytic process for converting biomass into benzene, toluene and xylene, which are chemically identical to their petroleum- based counterparts.
Suntory began collaborating with Anellotech in 2012, to develop the Bio-TCat process for making aromatics from pine wood, including the paraxylene required to make 100% plant-based PET bottles - a collaboration that has now proved successful.
“This achievement is the result of over ten years of thorough and painstaking development work by Anellotech’s dedicated employees, together with Suntory and other partners,” said co-founder David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech.
“The competitive advantage of Anellotech’s Bio-TCat generated paraxylene is its process efficiency - it uses a single-step thermal catalytic process by going directly from biomass to aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylene) - as well as the opportunity it creates for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to its identical fossil-derived paraxylene in the manufacture of PET, especially as it generates required process energy from the biomass feedstock itself.”
Suntory’s prototype plant-based bottle is made by combining Anellotech’s plant-based paraxylene, which has been converted to plant-based PTA, and bio-based MEG derived molasses. The result is a prototype PET bottle that is 100% plant based.
The prototype has been produced for the company’s iconic Orangina brand in Europe along with its best-selling bottled mineral water brand in Japan, Suntory Tennensui.
“We’re delighted with this achievement, as it brings us one step closer to delivering this sustainable PET bottle to the hands of our consumers,” said Tsunehiko Yokoi, Executive Officer of Suntory Monozukuri Expert Ltd.
The fully recyclable prototype plant-based bottle is estimated to significantly lower carbon emissions compared to petroleum derived virgin bottle.
Suntory aims to commercialise this 100% plant-based bottle as soon as possible to meet its 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal.
Founded as a family-owned business in 1899 in Osaka, Japan, Suntory Group has grown into a global company operating throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania with an annual revenue, excluding excise taxes, of $20.4 billion in 2020. Suntory employs 40,044 employees worldwide.