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"Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

Posted February 01, 2012 9:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy
Pathfinder Tags: plastics production Renewable

"Life tastes good" for those who drink Coca-Cola, but the soda company "can't beat the feeling" of making a completely renewable plastic bottle in order to "make it real" for consumers to "enjoy".

Slogans aside, my favorite soda (pop, soda-pop, soft drink, carbonated beverage, pick your poison) company, (whose beverages are seen left - Image Credit: Coca-Cola) means business with their new initiative to make their containers more environmentally friendly. In an effort to cost-effectively produce a bottle made from 100% renewable products, the business has formed partnerships with three small firms, namely Gevo, Virent, and Avantium.

Current Composition of the Bottle

Beverage bottles are mainly formed from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is created via a reaction between ethylene glycol (EG) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA). In addition to petrochemical based materials, EG can be sourced from sugar and molasses. Coke's current renewable bottle, coined the PlantBottle, is made from biobased EG, making it 30% renewable. But deriving PTA from nature has been much more difficult.

A Task for Each Partner

The ultimate goal of Coca-Cola in this endeavor is to find cheaper bottle materials for mass production. With over a 100 billion plastic bottles produced each year, small differences could mean big savings. Each of Coke's partners is currently taking a different approach in commercializing bottle production from new materials.

Virent's process begins with water-soluble carbohydrates such as sugar or industrial starches. The end result is an aromatic stream that can be processed to yield up to 50% p-xylene, the precursor to PTA.

Gevo's yeast-based fermentation process converts cornstarch-derived sugar into isobutyl alcohol. After a number of steps, the alcohol yields a stream of aromatics containing more than 90% p-xylene. This technology, Gevo says, can be added to existing ethanol plants at minimal capital costs. The picture right) shows Gevo scientists hard at work (Image Credit: Gevo).

Avantium is instead looking to introduce a new polymer into the supply chain. The process uses catalytic reactions to create furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA), which reacts with ethylene glycol to make polyethylene furanoate (PEF). PEF, Avantium says, could be a major improvement on PET.

Looking Forward

While the three companies are each looking for different solutions to the same problem, they don't consider themselves competitors. The market for PET is so large that no single company could possibly saturate the need if a full replacement for petrochemical production is found.

Business ventures like this are encouraging; not merely because they are environmental pushes, but because they are derived from economic incentives. Industry should be investing in the improvement and development of processes and products. I expect that many cost-cutting solutions (like this one) will go hand in hand with environmental and sustainable progress.

And you know what they say… when it comes to materials, you "can't beat the real thing".

Sources:

C&EN (ACS) - Coke Plays Spin the Bottle

Coca-Cola Slogans

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#1

Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/01/2012 2:45 PM

I thought they had been using "renewable" bottles for over 100 years now?

I think they called them glass bottles back in the day. You even had three main renewable/recycling choices to work with too! You could clean them and re use them or melt them down or crush them into a inert sand like material that had a unlimited number of practical applications.

You could also snap the end off one and use it in a bar fight if needed whereas now a days trying to look threatening while doing your best to beat someone down with a empty plastic bottle just doesn't work out right.

(Boink, Boink, Boink. Stop laughing at me dammit!)

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#2
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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/01/2012 9:32 PM

I'll second you on the glass.

These alternatives, like biofuels, will divert agricultural land that is needed for food.

There's nothing sustainable about that. Better to use sand to make a bottle....

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#6
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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 8:05 AM

Agreed, I think drinks taste better in glass too. Unfortunately, plastic is better for the manufacturer on all sides (cost, transport, integrity). And this movement for new renewable materials is also economically driven.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on the implications), cellulosic crops are at least more land efficient than their corn-based counterparts, so the footprint may be more manageable.

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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 9:22 AM

How are they doing with the recycled plastic option? Everyone is recycling now, so I would expect less interest in different raw materials and processes to make new plastic bottles, and more advances in the recycling of existing beverage containers instead... ??? Can recycled PET not be used to make another bottle, if it can't be reused???

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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 11:49 AM

From what I understand, using recycled plastic material is more expensive than using virgin resins for the manufacturer, and it requires a lot more processing to recycle plastic than glass or metal. Post-consumer PET resins are also more easily made into fiber for polyester fabrics than into bottle. Thus, that side of industry has less concern for the recycling end (except as a means to promote more plastic bottle sales).

Also, I believe recycling rates for plastics are still well below 50%, definitely not a majority. But since plastics are not a natural resource like metal, its really more of a landfill waste concern than anything else.

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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 12:57 AM

"With over a 100 billion plastic bottles produced each year"......they can reuse them, they do it Germany. The bottles are real thick and sturdy over there, and there is not one old plastic bottle on the streets anywhere, that stuff is worth money at the supermarket, you put it all in the machine in the corner and get credit for the store.....how else is a bum gonna support their alcohol problem without collecting bottles?

Not really sure what the carbon offset is for smelting glass is, but glass is definately the go though. In Thailand you buy a coke that is in a bottle that had been around for 12 years (they are dated), and they just sterilize them and fill em up again. I didnt catch a single disease either.....pretty stoked. If they can do it, anyone can do it!

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#3

Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/01/2012 10:24 PM

Who cares about renewable bottles? Renewable contents--now we're talking!

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#4
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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/01/2012 10:56 PM

How about healthy contents?

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#9

Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 1:07 PM

What I want is my own carbonation machine with a wide variety of syrups. Diet cola, lemonade, ginger beer, orange, etc. No bottles needed. Reusable syrup and CO2 containers. Compact design. Soda Stream makes one, but the prices are at no savings. I want savings as well. Would save a lot of hauling of bottles, energy saved in transport, new bottles, aluminum cans etc. I can even design my own fruit syrups and carbonate them. Any help with sources would be appreciated. I have not searched yet. Possibly a good business opportunity for distributors at all levels!

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Re: "Open Happiness" from a Renewable Bottle

02/02/2012 1:26 PM

A quick search showed plenty of how to info that was very economical. I think I will go for it in the near future. For economic, convenience, and even green reasons. instructables.com has a nice article, but there is plenty of info out there. Involves a small CO2 tank, regulator, tubing etc. Search under home carbonation.

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