Getting Real About Plastic

A worker examines plastic bottles at a recycling center in Santiago, Chile. MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

We admit to optimism as recently as three months ago on this issue, which we have been reading about since five years ago. Thanks to Jim Robbins for keeping it real:

Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem

Coca-Cola’s new PlantBottle is made from 30 percent sugar cane and other plants, with the rest made from traditional oil-based plastic. COCA-COLA

Bioplastics are being touted by industry marketers as the solution to plastics pollution. But the idea that bottles and packaging made of plant-based material can simply be discarded and then break down and disappear is false – recycling and reuse are the only strategies that can work.

Coca-Cola calls it the PlantBottle — a new kind of recyclable plastic container, 30 percent of which is made from sugar cane and other plants, with the remaining 70 percent made from traditional oil-based plastic. The company says that PlantBottle packaging now accounts for nearly a third of its North American bottle volume and seven percent globally. Continue reading

Plants To Plastic To Progress

A mound of plastic bottles at a recycling plant near Bangkok in Thailand. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made every year and most of it is not recycled. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

We’re always happy to give credit when due. While beer isn’t the first beverage that comes to mind when thinking about the scourge of plastics in the world, bottled soda and water certainly are. So it’s heartening to hear that a company like Coca-Cola, which has contributed to the proliferation of the world’s plastic problem, is backing a bioplastic project that could help to control it.

Closer To An Alternative For Plastic Packaging

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Yale e360, with news like this, titles it carefully:

Scientists Say They Have Found a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic

Scientists at Ohio State University say they have developed a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic food packaging by using natural tree-based rubber. According to the researchers, the new biodegradable material holds promise for fighting the world’s growing plastic pollution problem, as well as for helping curb our reliance on fossil fuels.

The original source, with slightly more flowery language, titles it as if packaging can be friendly to the environment. The way we use packaging, not so. But we will take what we can get at this point:

Study shows potential for Earth-friendly plastic replacement

New biodegradable ‘plastic’ is tough, flexible

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The new bioplastic and rubber blend devised by Ohio State researchers proved much more durable than the bioplastic on its own

The quest to keep plastic out of landfills and simultaneously satisfy the needs of the food industry is filled with obstacles.

A biodegradable replacement for petroleum-based products has to meet all sorts of standards and, so far, attempts at viable replacements from renewable sources have faced limited success due to processing and economic constraints. Among the obstacles, products to date have been too brittle for food packaging. Continue reading

Understanding Biomaterials

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Source: Greenbiz.com

Bio-based materials are becoming more mainstream and according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability & Commerce, over $400 billion worth of conventional manufacturing products are produced each year using biomass, which in many cases are more sustainable than older alternatives. Nonetheless, bio-based alternatives have yet to reach scale due to traditional industry adhering to classic chemistry.

This is beginning to change, as breakthroughs in bio-based materials engineering reach a tipping point. Collective understanding of how microbes work is, for the first time, allowing us to make chemicals in a safer and more environmentally friendly way. It is possible for us to engineer microbes to have specific functions, including a variety of sustainability applications.

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Coca-Cola Thinking Plants

BUSINESS THE BITE Coca-Cola debuts 100% plant-based bottle as companies go eco-friendly (+video)  csmonitor icon Latest News MORE EMAIL Subscribe Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company's growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. By Ellen Meyers, Staff writer JUNE 4, 2015 About video ads Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles WSBTV - Atlanta Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles Coca-Cola debuted an updated version of its PlantBottle, its first bottle made from 100 percent plant materials at the Expo Milan 2015 on Wednesday. The Atlanta-based beverage giant did not specify when the 100 percent plant-based bottles would be available to consumers. However, the company said it wants its current version of its PlantBottle, made of 30 percent plant-based materials, to be used in all of its products by 2020. “Our vision was to maximize game-changing technology, using responsibly sourced plant-based materials to create the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” Nancy Quan, the company’s global research and development officer, said in a press release. Recommended: Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! Since the 2009 launch, Coca-Cola has distributed more than 35 billion bottles in nearly 40 countries using its current version of PlantBottle packaging, according to the release. The company estimates that the packaging helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! PHOTOS OF THE DAY Photos of the day 06/16 In 2011, Coca-Cola licensed the technology for making PlantBottles to H.J. Heinz to use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company said it plans to use the same material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. Coca-Cola says the new bottles will be the world's first entirely plant-based PET bottles. PET, known as polyethylene terephthalate, is a plastic resin and the most common type of polyester, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). It was discovered and patented in England in 1941, but it was not until the late 1990s when more companies and manufacturers started to make and use PET containers for products. NAPCOR says PET is appealing for both consumers and manufacturers for its low weight, strength, and recyclability, and its use in packaging materials, like bottles, has ticked up over the past few years. However, PET has its drawbacks. It can be an expensive packaging material to produce, according to a 2004 report from the Recycling Operators of New Zealand. RONZ also found that “PET acts as a gas ‘sieve,’ slowly allowing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. This means the shelf life of beverages can be limited by the reduction, over time, in carbonation and oxygen degradation of flavours.” In other words, the carbonation in soda could go flat faster.  In terms of recycling, quality and quantity of supplies are also still major concerns. For reclaimers – professional recycling centers – PET packaging can be harder to clean than other plastics, Reclaimers still reported high levels of contamination in PET containers in 2013, according to NAPCOR’s 2014 report on recycling activity for PET containers. That complication can mean less PET materials are actually reused. In fact, only 22.6 percent of recycled PET containers in the US went on to be used in other products.   NAPCOR also reported that domestic collection of PET containers in the US is growing, but it is not enough to meet current and potential demand from reclaimers. That's led them to import PET from places like Canada, Mexico, and Latin America. While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola's latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola’s latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made 30% of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company’s growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. Can it be sustained? That remains to be seen.

Since its introduction in 2009, PlantBottle packaging has been distributed in a variety of packaging sizes across water, sparkling, juice and tea beverage brands—from Coca-Cola to DASANI to Gold Peak. Today, PlantBottle packaging accounts for 30 percent of the Company’s packaging volume in North America and 7 percent globally, some 6 billion bottles annually, making The Coca-Cola Company a large bioplastics end user.  In 2011, the company licensed PlantBottle Technology to H.J. Heinz for use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company announced plans to use the same renewable material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. And in 2014, the first reusable, fully recyclable plastic cup made with PlantBottle Technology rolled out in SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks across the United States. More.

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