Focus'Green' PET bottle reflects positive trend - Eastman

19 May 2009 21:58  [Source: ICIS news]

By Ben DuBose

(Recast for clarity)

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US Coca-Cola's unveiling of a recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle made partly from plant-based materials is an extension of a trend of companies moving to PET packaging, an Eastman Chemical manager said on Tuesday.

Eastman commented as a PET producer and observer of market trends.

“The availability of plant-based material for use in the making of PET bottles is clearly a significant development for the industry,” said Bill Wight, PET business manager for Eastman. “PET’s already strong environmental position as a readily recyclable material is only enhanced by the use of renewable resources to make the virgin bottles.”

“PET also exhibits a very attractive energy and greenhouse gas footprint compared with alternative materials,” he added.

According to Coca-Cola, the “PlantBottle” reduces carbon emissions by up to 25% when compared with traditional petroleum-based PET plastic bottles. The new bottle is a blend of petroleum-based materials and up to 30% plant-based materials.

“It has all the chemical characteristics of PET, but with the distinguishing characteristic that unlike other plant-based plastics, it is fully recyclable within current recycling infrastructure,” Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lisa Manley said.

Manley compared plant-based PET with plant-based polylactic acid (PLA), which she said was much more difficult to recycle.

The PlantBottle is made through a process that turns sugarcane and molasses, byproducts of sugar production, into a key component for PET plastic, Coca-Cola said. The company said it is also exploring the use of other plant materials for future generations of the product.

Coca-Cola will first use the PlantBottle for Dasani and other water brands in select North American markets later this year and with VitaminWater in 2010, the company said.

Manley said the company’s vision was to use renewable resources in 100% of its packaging, but that is considered a long-term proposition with no set timetable.

The company said it does not disclose supplier information, but said the upcoming pilot run for the PlantBottle “will be using supply forces from Brazil and India”.

Eastman said it was optimistic for the general green PET trend, but warned that there were two key factors to watch related to Coca-Cola’s announcement.

“No great undertaking is without challenges,” Wight said. “First, we have to see if the marketplace will reward this kind of environmental innovation, and second, we have to ensure that the source of renewable materials remains economically and environmentally viable over the long-term.

“All in all, though, we’re quite pleased,” he added.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola opened a plastic bottle-to-bottle recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a production capacity of about 100m lbs/year (45,360 tonnes/year) of recycled PET plastic for reuse.

That is the equivalent of nearly 2bn 20-ounce Coca-Cola bottles, the company said.

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By: Ben DuBose
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