I am still working on the Weekly News Roundup but in the meantime there is an interesting and very lively discussion going on in one of LinkedIn’s group that I joined regarding PepsiCo’s recent announcement of its plans to use 100% plant-based polethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle.
PepsiCo said that its “green” bottle is made from raw materials such as switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. In the future, the company expects to expand its raw material sources such as orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural food by-products.
Pepsico plans to pilot produced the new bottle next year and intends to move directly to full-scale commercialization once the pilot scale is successfully operated.
Now, I think the key words here are “combining biological and chemical processes.” PET is basically made from 15-30% ethylene glycol (MEG) and 70% terephthalic acid (TPA). Recalling Coca-Cola’s Plant Bottle, their EG component is made using sugarcane-based ethylene while the TPA part is still petrochemical-based.
Coca-Cola said at that time that in the long term, it plans to also use non-food waste such as wood chips, wheat stalks to produce their Plant-Bottle. I asked somebody from Pepsico last year (where we were both attending a conference) why the company has not made any launch like that of Coca-Cola’s Plant Bottle. He said the company does not want to start making something that uses just very minimal renewable-based materials. The official did admire Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy in promoting the Plant Bottle.
Last week, Coca-Cola partnered with food company H.J. Heinz in producing Heinz ketchup bottles using Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle packaging. Heinz planned to globally convert to the PlantBottle packaging starting this summer.
Now, if EG can already be made 100% plant-based, who is producing 100% bio-based TPA, how is it being produced in order to get 100% renewable-based PET like what PepsiCo has, and at what cost and scale? That is the major question posted by Jim Lunt on the Linked In group Bio-based Chemicals – Grow the Industry.
One theory is that the EG portion is the one with the biological process and TPA can be produced using a thermochemical route maybe such as biomass-to-syngas. Lunt noted companies who are interested in producing bio-based TPA such as Gevo (isobutanol to paraxylene to TPA), Draths (TPA from muconic acid), Anellotech (biomass to BTX, xylenes to TPA), and Avantium (furan dicarboxylic acid -FDCA- as a replacement for purified terephthalic acid -PTA).
There was also a link about TPA being produced through synthesis of limonenes or D-fructose. As far as Lunt was concerned, none of the technologies he mentioned are close to being commercial (but he said he could be wrong).
Unfortunately I am not an expert with TPA chemistry but I do know that Avantium is already planning to replace PET with its PEF (not sure what this stands for… polyethylene furanics???) which is composed of bio-based EG and its FDCA-based TPA alternative. The company said so during their presentation at the recent Infocast Biobased Chemicals Summit (which I was unable to attend as my attention was caught in another presentation in a different room).
I do have Frank Roerink’s (Avantium’s CFO) contact information so I’ll definitely send him an email soon. The process technology for Avantium’s FDCA involves a catalytic chemical process that uses C6 and C5 sugars from non-food biomass as feedstock. Carbohydrates of the biomass are dehydrated to produce 5-HMF derivatives, called RMF. Catalytic oxidation of RMF produces the 2,5-Furan-dicarboxylic-acid (FDCA).
According to Roerink’s presentation, the price for petroleum-based PTA (which is a key building block for PET) was$1,500/ton while their FDCA (which is a key building block for their PEF) is less than EUR1,000/ton. In terms of performance, their PEF is said to have similar or better properties compared to PET and it’s also recyclable.
Avantium is further enhancing the color, molecular weight and bottle design of its PEF plastic. The company plans to have a demonstration plant of around 200-400 ton/year for its FDCA in 2012-2013 and an industrial plant with capacities between 30,000 and 50,000 tons/year is expected by 2015.
Roerink said it plans to partner with consumer goods manufacturers for commercializing PEF applications in bottles (could it be PepsiCo??), green packaging materials, green diapers and green carpets and textiles. Avantium’s 20-40 ton/year pilot plant at Chemelot, the Netherlands, is expected to come onstream this year.
As like any other interested followers of this exciting bioplastic industry, the green blog hopes to get more insight soon on the who’s, what’s and how’s regarding PepsiCo’s 100% green PET bottle so I don’t have to resort to pure speculation = ).
[Aerial view of Avantium's pilot facility in the Netherlands]