We packed a lot of big thinking into one little bottle. Learn how we did it, why we did it and what it means for you.
What is PlantBottle™ packaging?
PlantBottle™ packaging is The Coca-Cola Company’s breakthrough innovation, designed to change the way the world thinks of plastic bottles. It is the first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic made partially from plants.
What’s the difference between PlantBottle™ packaging and a traditional PET plastic bottle?
PlantBottle™ packaging and traditional PET are both made of PET, or polyethylene terephthalate. The difference is the materials that go into PlantBottle™ packaging are up to 30 percent plant-based rather than entirely from fossil-fuels, which is the case for traditional PET. PlantBottle™ packaging material looks and performs the same as traditional PET but with a lower carbon footprint.
Like traditional PET, PlantBottle™ technology can be used to make most single-serve plastic bottles, including those for water, soft drinks and juices, and also for a variety of other products, like clothing, carpet and cloth. It is globally recognized as a safe, recyclable packaging material.
What do you mean by “partially made from plants”?
PET plastic is made up of two components: MEG (monoethylene glycol), which makes up 30 percent of the PET by weight, and PTA (purified terephthalic acid), which makes up the other 70 percent. We’ve found a way to make MEG from plants (bio-MEG), which is why we say our PET plastic is partially (up to 30 percent) made from plants.
What is the other 70 percent made out of for the bottles that are in market?
The bottles we currently have in market use up to 30 percent plant-based materials. The other 70 percent of the PET (the PTA) is made from traditional fossil fuel-based sources.
When will TCCC commercialize PlantBottle™ packaging using 100 percent plant-based materials?? We’ve reached a significant milestone in our journey by demonstrating a viable technology solution for a bottle made entirely out of plants. This is an exciting advancement for the program! We announced the production of a 100 percent PlantBottle and showcased the bottles at the World Expo – Milan.
There is still more work to be done to reach our ultimate goal to commercialize a 100 percent renewable, responsibly sourced bottle that is fully recyclable. We will continue to work with partners to help us achieve our vision.
How was the 100 percent PlantBottle™ packaging produced?
In 2011, we announced a partnership with biotechnology firm Virent focused on the development of a plant-based solution for traditional TA (the second ingredient in PET). The bottle showcased at World Expo – Milan is a result of that partnership. The TA ingredient for the bottles was produced at Virent’s pilot plant in the United States.
You claim that the bottle is 100 percent recyclable. Is PlantBottle™ packaging fully recyclable?
Yes. PlantBottle™ packaging is recyclable just like PET made from fossil fuels because it is PET plastic. When PlantBottle™ packaging is recycled it can be used to make new PET bottles or for the wide variety of other products made from recycled PET today. PET is made up of two ingredients and we found a way to make one of the ingredients from plant-based materials, so it is chemically identical to traditional PET made from fossil fuels. Therefore, PlantBottle™ packaging is fully recyclable.
What is the difference between your announcement at World Expo in 2015 and PepsiCo’s plant-based bottle announcement in 2011?
We are the first company to have produced a PET plastic bottle at pilot-scale and unveil it in market (at World Expo – Milan). We are not aware that our competitor has produced a similar bottle.
What are the advantages of PlantBottle™ packaging?
Today we know that natural resources are stressed and communities are forced to do more with less. PlantBottle Technology™ has the potential to reduce the amount of petroleum used around the world and increase the use of renewable materials, therefore helping address our shared global environmental challenges.
Where does the plant material come from?
PlantBottle™ packaging material is made by converting the natural sugars found in plants into a key ingredient for making PET plastic. Today, we are using sugarcane and waste from the sugarcane manufacturing process. Both materials meet The Coca-Cola Company’s established sustainability criteria used to identify plant-based ingredients for PlantBottle™ packaging material. These guiding principles include demonstrating improved environmental and social performance as well as avoiding negative impacts on food security.
Will PlantBottle™ materials crowd out food-based agriculture?
No. While sugarcane production has increased in Brazil, there has been no drop in food production. Brazil is a leading exporter of beef, coffee, orange juice, poultry, soybeans and sugar. Most sugarcane expansion is on degraded pastures that do not increase competition for new land or displace other crops. Estimates show that sugarcane production in Brazil could increase thirty times without endangering sensitive ecosystems or taking land destined for food crops.
What about impact areas like food security or biodiversity?
We recognize that such impact areas are vitally important to ensuring that the environmental and social value of using PlantBottle™ packaging is truly better. The Coca-Cola Company works closely with third-party experts, like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to advance efforts to identify plant-based sugars that are responsibly grown and harvested. For example, the Company joined seven major consumer brands and World Wildlife Fund in founding the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance to support the responsible development of plastics made from plant-based material. The Alliance will call upon leading experts to evaluate feedstock sources based on land use, food security, biodiversity and other impacts.
Additionally, the Company and WWF partnered on a variety of sustainable agricultural initiatives, including creating an internationally recognized sustainable sugar certification program called Bonsucro.
Are you using genetically modified crops for PlantBottle™ packaging?
There are no genetically modified crops in the plant materials we are sourcing today.
Are PlantBottle™ materials more expensive than traditional PET? Will the end products be more expensive?
We’re seeing a lot of variance in pricing because the price of petroleum is so volatile. Over the long term, we believe the cost of material made from plants will be more stable than the cost of petroleum. That’s why we’re building out our supply chain to efficiently use materials made from plants in our packaging. We’re absorbing the additional costs today as an investment in a more sustainable future.
If it is identical to traditional PET plastic bottles, how will consumers know if their bottle contains plant materials?
PlantBottle™ package containers can be identified through on-package messages and logos, and in-store point-of-sale displays. Web-based communications including the PlantBottle™ packaging section of our website provide additional information on PlantBottle™ packaging.
What are The Coca-Cola Company’s key considerations for packaging?
We focus on delivering the quality beverages our consumers expect in the most efficient way possible with a key focus on recyclability, minimizing resources and increasing the use of recycled and renewable materials. We also aim to inspire consumers to participate through their local recycling programs.
Why does The Coca-Cola Company care about packaging?
Packaging plays an essential role for our business in meeting consumer needs and preventing waste by protecting our products during delivery.
Who are your primary stakeholders when it comes to packaging?
Our stakeholders begin with our consumers. They expect us to deliver the beverages they know and love in a package that meets their needs such as convenience and safety. Since our packaging is the last interaction we have with our consumers, it needs to remind them of our commitment to sustainability. We also have to work closely with our bottling partners and our customers. In particular, we are working with our bottlers to ensure that our PET bottles set a responsible standard for sustainable packaging, using an optimal combination of recycled PET (rPET) and PET made from bio-based materials (bPET).
What is our position on the environmental issues associated with plastic?
PET plastic is excellent for beverage packaging because it’s versatile, durable, economical, re-sealable and highly recyclable. That’s why we’ve been using it for more than 30 years. However, we do recognize that most plastic beverage bottles are still made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum, and many are not disposed of properly, which leads to waste. At The Coca-Cola Company, we’re actively working to prevent waste over the life of our packaging by advancing consumer recycling programs and increasing our use of recycled and renewable material in our packages.
What are the environmental benefits of PlantBottle™ packaging?
PlantBottle™ packaging reduces dependence on fossil fuel-based materials compared with traditional PET plastic, which reduces the Company’s dependence on non-renewable resources. It’s the next step on our journey to making all of our PET packaging from renewable resources. Additionally, PlantBottle™ packaging turns waste into a resource. Currently, the plant-based part of this packaging comes from sugarcane-based bio-monoethylene glycol (b-MEG), but some day we expect that the plant-based components will also come from waste such as fruit peels, bark, corn cobs and stalks. And, because it is PET just like the conventional plastic bottles, PlantBottle™ packaging can be fully recycled along with other PET plastic bottles, even for bottle-to-bottle purposes.
What are the differences between PlantBottle™ plastic bottles and biodegradable or compostable plastic bottles?
We’ve studied this issue carefully, and our environmental research tells us that recyclable plastic bottles are better environmentally and economically when compared to biodegradable plastic bottles. The plastic in PlantBottle™ packaging can be recycled again and again in today’s recycling streams, thereby reclaiming all of the energy and materials that went into the creation of the bottle. PlantBottle™ packaging also provides performance advantages in maintaining the quality of sparkling and still beverages. We haven’t seen a biodegradable package that can meet the quality requirements for all of our beverages.
What does the future for PlantBottle™ packaging look like?
We’ve reached a significant milestone in our plant-based packaging journey by demonstrating a viable technology solution for a bottle made entirely out of plants. In June 2015, we announced the production of a 100 percent PlantBottle package and showcased the bottles at the World Expo – Milan. Our work with biotechnology firms will help us make significant steps toward reaching our ultimate goal to commercialize a PlantBottle™ package made entirely from 100 percent renewable, responsibly sourced materials that is fully recyclable. We will continue to work with partners to help us achieve our vision.
What has PlantBottle Technology™ been used for and what could it be used for in the future?
The future applications for PlantBottle Technology™ are endless. The technology can be applied anywhere that PET plastic is used. The Coca-Cola Company has announced PlantBottle Technology™ partnerships with Ford Motor Company (polyester car interiors) and SeaWorld® Parks & Entertainment (a first-ever refillable souvenir cup made with PlantBottle technology). These applications are just the beginning – we see endless possibilities for this innovation.
The partnership with Ford led to the first-ever integration of interior fabric made from PlantBottle Technology™ for use in a vehicle. The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid demonstration vehicle uses PlantBottle Technology™ for fabric interior including seat cushions, backs, headrests, door panel inserts and headliners.
Who developed the technology to make plastic from plants? Does The Coca-Cola Company own the patent?
The Coca-Cola Company did not develop the process to make plant-based PET. However, we did develop and have applied for a patent for the beverage bottle application of plant-based PET. That’s what PlantBottle™ packaging is.
Has PlantBottle™ packaging been recognized by any third-parties (i.e., awards)?
Yes. PlantBottle™ packaging has been recognized by numerous third parties including industry experts and customers for its innovative design. A few examples include: Edison Innovation Award for Best New Product, DuPont Award for Packaging, European CSR Award, Greener Package Award, Design for Recycling Award from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, McDonald’s 2012 Global “Best of Sustainable Supply” Recognition, Sweden’s Recycling Industries Prize, Ethical Corporation Award, Anda Award for Sustainable Marketing, PAC Leadership Awards, Interbrand Best Global Brands, UK Packaging Awards Sustainable Pack of the Year, Wal-Mart’s Sustainable Packaging Award, Green Awards for Creativity in Sustainability and the Sustainable Bio Award.
More on Journey
- Coca-Cola ‘No Calories, and With Sweetener from Stevia Plant’ Debuts in Greece
- Coca-Cola and the Balance Calories Initiative to Reduce Sugar from Beverages Nationally
- Mobile App From Coca-Cola Japan Crosses 4 Million Downloads
- Muhtar Kent Remarks: U.S. Water Partnership 2017 Water Leader Award
- Coca-Cola Zero Reformulates to Encourage No Sugar Consumption