Companies to launch bio-based PET bottles

Article by Staff Writer

DANONE and Nestlé Waters have formed the NaturALL Bottle Alliance with Origin Materials to develop and launch bio-based PET water bottles on a commercial scale.

The companies plan to build a plant to produce PET from previously-used biomass such as cardboard and sawdust in 2017. The first bottle samples containing 60% bio-based PET will be produced by 2018, and the initial plan is to bring 5,000 t of the bottles to market. By 2020, the NaturALL Bottle Alliance expects to be producing 75% bio-based PET bottles at a commercial scale, with 95% bottles launching in 2020. The eventual aim is make 100% bio-based PET bottles. The PET is fully recyclable and as it is made with waste, does not divert land or resources from food production.

Nestlé Waters is the world’s largest bottled water company, with brands including Perrier, San Pellegrino, Vittel, Buxton and Pure Life. Danone, also a leader in the business, owns brands including Evian, Volvic and Badoit. Both companies have previously committed to sustainable business practices and have schemes to encourage recycling and use renewable resources. Origin Materials, meanwhile, is a Californian startup, which has developed the technology to make bio-based PET. Nestlé and Danone say that they discovered Origin separately and joined forces to back the technology.

Origin Materials CEO John Bissell told The Chemical Engineer that the process turns any lignocellulosic material into paraxylene, which is then oxidised into terephthalic acid, a feedstock for the conventional PET production process. The PET produced is therefore identical to petrochemical PET. In the first stage of the reaction, the lignocellulosic material whether cardboard, woodchips or sawdust, is fed into a biphasic reactor, in which the cellulose is depolymerised to make glycans, which then convert into chloromethylfurfural. This is attracted into the organic phase, from which it is then separated. In a second reactor, the chloromethylfurfural is reduced to make dimethylfurfural. In the third reactor, this is reacted with ethylene to make the paraxylene.

So far, Origin has been able to make an 80% bio-based PET bottle at its pilot plant. While it is technically feasible to make a 100% bio-based PET bottle, at present it is not practically possible. Bissell explained to The Chemical Engineer that the PET production process also requires ethylene, which at present is largely derived from petroleum. Braskem is already making ethylene from sugar cane in Brazil, but this is not logistically possible in the US at the scales the Alliance is looking at. However, this is likely to change as the scale increases. The isophthalic acid used as a co-monomer in PET bottles is also not presently bio-based. In addition, in a factory also making conventional PET bottles, some dilution of the bio-based product is inevitable. Bissell remains hopeful, however, that 100% bio-based PET is possible.

The partners say they will make the technology available to the entire food and drinks industry in the shortest time possible, as part of their commitment to sustainable business and open innovation.

“Our goal is to establish a circular economy for packaging by sourcing sustainable materials and creating a second life for all plastics. 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 Frederic Jouin, Danone head of R&D for plastic materials.

Article by Staff Writer

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