Last week, industry giants Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, Heinz, Nike, and Proctor & Gamble formed a partnership agreement designed to integrate 100% plant-based polyethylene terepthalate (PET) into their product lines at commercial scale. This news rides on the coattails of Coca-Cola’s announcement to partner with Virent, Gevo (Client registration required.), and Avantium (Client registration required.) to accelerate development of their current 30% plant-based monoethylene glycol (MEG) PlantBottle (Client registration required.). To date, purely bio-based PET technologies exist. In fact, there are many plant-based routes to terepthalic acid (TPA), which can then be converted to PET. These include both fermentation and catalytic processes that are currently too expensive at commercial scale.
Coca-Cola’s goal is to convert all petroleum-based PET products to plant-based PET, which represents 52% of the total packaging within the company. Heinz licensed the MEG PlantBottle technology from Coca-Cola, and hopes to achieve similar goals. Furthermore, Ford shifted from using petroleum-based PET to currently use 25% soy-based polyols for seat cushions, recycled resins for underbody systems, post-industrial recycled yarns for seat fabrics, and repurposed nylon to make cylinder head covers in its bio-based portfolio. Considered a drop-in solution, bio-based PET replicates the mechanical and chemical properties of petroleum-based PET. Therefore, the 100% plant-based PET can potentially be used for all of these end products.
This consortium acts as a catalyst to grow the bio-based PET industry to produce plastic bottles, clothing, shoes, automotive carpets, and other furnishings, and essentially any product made from traditional PET. These industry behemoths will inevitably commercialize the technology due to their current R&D partnerships, access to suppliers, collaborations with universities, and extensive monetary resources. Furthermore, this will enhance the strength of the bio-based materials and chemicals industry by promoting collaboration along the entire supply chain, especially as the rate of forged partnerships is expected to slow in 2012. (See the report “Solving the Bio-Based Chemicals Partnership Puzzle.” Client registration required.)