It was always going to be a question of when, not if Coca-Cola (Atlanta, GA) would successfully produce and launch a 100% plant-based PET bottle packaging. And when it finally happened last week, it was big news. Admittedly, Coca-Cola deserves this moment in the sun. After all, as the biggest player in the PET industry, the company has done more, much more than anyone else to advance the development of a sustainable renewably sourced PET Bottle. Coca-Cola has truly, and in no small way, put its money where its mouth is.
The company that helped make the current 100% plant-based bottle possible was one of the companies with which Coca-Cola partnered in 2011 to accelerate the development of its PlantBottle technology. Coca-Cola had already produced a PET bottle based on up to 30% renewably sourced raw materials. PET is produced from MEG (monoethylene glycol) and terephthalic acid (PTA). MEG, for which a biobased drop-in based on ethanol from sugar cane has long been available, accounts for 30%; the remaining 70% is PTA, for which there was no bio replacement available. Hence in 2011, Coca-Cola entered into agreements with Virent (Madison, WI), Gevo (Englewood, CO) and Avantium (Amsterdam, Netherlands), all “industry leaders in developing plant-based alternatives to materials traditionally made from fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources,” according to Coca-Cola. Virent and Gevo were both working on the development of renewable paraxylene, the ingredient needed to make PTA; Avantium had developed a brand new bio-polyester known as PEF with the potential to replace PET altogether.