Two years after Coca-Cola Co. unveiled a bottle made partly from plant materials, PepsiCo says it is introducing a better one. The Purchase, N.Y. company says it has developed the world’s first plastic “PET” bottle made entirely from plant-based materials. Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is the most commonly used plastic for beverage containers.
PepsiCo says the new bottle, which could be several years from hitting the wider market, will reduce its dependence on petroleum.
Coke’s PlantBottle is made of up to 30 percent plant sugars. The Atlanta company says it is trying to bring a 100-percent plant-based model, such as the kind used to package juice, from the lab to the marketplace.
The Pepsi bottle is made from materials including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. PepsiCo plans to make several hundred thousand bottles in a pilot program next year and roll them out more widely later. It did not say which brands will get the bottle first. It said the did say the undercover research and development project spanned four countries and took several years.
“We’re learning our way,” said Denise Lefebvre, senior director of advanced research at PepsiCo. “We want to make sure all the science is absolutely right.”
PepsiCo says the bottle looks and feels like existing beverage containers, and protects beverages equally well. It hopes to make future versions of the bottle with orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its foods business.
“The beauty of the technology is, we’ll be able to use a lot of different types of biomass,” said Lefebvre. “Our intent is certainly to create a closed-loop system.”
Beverage companies are trying to design bottles to counter environmental concerns about the use of petroleum in manufacturing. The bottled water industry is using lighter plastics, dropping the average weight of the 16.9 ounce “single serve” bottle by one-third over the past eight years, according to the International Bottled Water Association, a trade group. PepsiCo’s Eco-Fina bottle, introduced for Aquafina in 2009, was the lightest bottle of its size among U.S. water brands.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola‘s PlantBottle, for Dasani water and other brands, is available in nine countries. It is expected to reach more than a dozen other markets this year. More than 2.5 billion PlantBottles reached the marketplace in 2010, a number Coca-Cola says equates to saving about 3 million gallons of gasoline. The company intends to more than double its use of the PlantBottle this year, and to use the packaging for all of its clear plastic bottles by 2020.
In a statement Tuesday, following PepsiCo’s announcement of a fully plant-based bottle, Coca-Cola said it has been working for four years toward its goal of a 100 percent plant-based bottle. Several approaches to a package made fully from plants have been successfully demonstrated in a lab, according to Coke.
“Currently, we are working to advance this breakthrough science to ensure it’s commercially viable,” the company said. “We welcome others in the industry joining us in advancing the science.”
The PlantBottle technology will also appear in Heinz bottles, under a partnership with the ketchup-maker, and possibly in bottles for Honest Tea, a Maryland company Coca-Cola just acquired. The PlantBottle is made partly with natural sugars found in sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. Odwalla, a Coca-Cola juice brand, plans to switch to the PlantBottle within the next few weeks.
“We’re excited to see how Coke has been progressing their agenda as well, because it’s all good for the environment,” said Lefebvre.