Whilst sustainable bottles aren’t exactly new to the bio-based industry there is still a lag between the innovation process and their commercialisation. For a product that we use every day it is surprising that bio-based alternatives are still not found on supermarket shelves. Over the past few months we have not been short of reporting the popular innovation area for bio-based bottles. Carlsberg are working on their wood fibre bottles, Tetra Pak have launched an 80% renewable carton and a small start up in America called Totally Green Bottles and Caps has looked into the ways to produce a sustainable cap and label. These advancements emphasise that a lot of research and development is willing to be carried out in the industry – but where are the results? The collaboration between two multinationals could be the accelerator to drive this commercialisation process forward. At the beginning of the month, Danone and Nestlé Waters announced that they will be launching a 100 per cent bio-based NaturALL Bottle in collaboration with Californian start-up Origin Materials.
For decades, both Nestlé Waters ( @ ) and Danone ( @ ) have been committed to sustainable business practices, notably by continuously improving their environmental performances and promoting the development of a circular economy. Founded in 1992, Nestlé Waters is the water division of the Nestlé Group and the most popular bottled water company in the world reaching sales of CHF 7.9 billion in 2016. The Swiss company certainly has the driving force ability with over 93 production facilities situated in 33 countries around the world. Furthermore, Nestlé Waters has a unique portfolio of more than 50 brands including Nestlé Pure Life, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, Poland Spring, Vittel, Buxton and Erikli.
Danone is another multinational brand which owns a range of common dairy milk companies that you may be familiar with, such as: Activia, Actimel, Danette, Danonino, Danio, evian, Volvic, Nutrilon/Aptamil, Nutricia Danone, along with more local brands: Oikos, Prostokvashino, Aqua and, Cow & Gate. Present in over 130 markets, Danone generated sales of €21.9 billion in 2016.
Up until now, Nestlé Waters and Danone have focused on developing innovative packaging solutions that are recyclable and made with renewable resources, as well as the promotion of recycling. At the beginning of the year Bio-Based World News reported that Danone was one of 40 industry leaders to outline a global strategy to minimise plastic production, use and after-use. The NaturALL bottle could be the promising collaboration to finally deliver change to the packaging industry. This unique business move came about after Origin Materials’ ( @ ) specialisation in bio-based intermediates from lignocellulosic (second generation) raw materials. Origin's intermediates can be used to make new polymers, surfactants, and carbon blacks, each with differentiated performance. Their technology will help accelerate both companies’ bio-based development.
“Current technology on the market makes it possible to have 30% bio-PET,” noted John Bissell, Chief Executive Officer of Origin Materials. “Our breakthrough technology aims to reach 100% bio-based bottles at commercial scale. With the help of our Alliance partners, Origin Materials will be able to scale up a technology which has already been proven at the pilot level.”
This next-generation PET will be as light in weight, transparent, recyclable and protective of the product as today’s PET, while being better for the planet. The exclusive use of renewable feedstocks which do not divert resources or land from food production is the Alliance’s main focus area. The R&D will focus initially on cardboard, sawdust and wood chips but other biomass materials, such as rice hulls, straw and agricultural residue could be explored.
Biomass feedstocks, such as previously used cardboard and sawdust will be used so it does not divert resources or land from food production for human or animal consumption. The technology represents a scientific breakthrough for the sector, and the Alliance aims to make it available to the entire food and beverage industry.
“We believe it’s possible to replace traditional fossil materials with bio-based packaging materials. By teaming up and bringing together our complementary expertise and resources, the Alliance can move faster in developing 100% renewable and recyclable PET plastic at commercial scale'” declared Frederic Jouin, head of R&D for plastic materials at Danone.
Danone and Nestlé Waters are providing expertise and teams, as well as financial support, to help Origin Materials make this technology available to the entire food and beverage industry in record time. Origin Materials has already produced samples of 80% bio-based PET in its pilot plant in Sacramento. Construction of a “pioneer plant” will begin in 2017, with production of the first samples of 60+% bio-based PET to start in 2018. The initial volume goal for this first step is to bring 5,000 metric tons of bio-based PET to the market. Thanks to their complementary skills and shared vision, the NaturALL Bottle Alliance aims to develop the process for producing at least 75% bio-based PET plastic bottles at commercial scale as early as in 2020, scaling up to 95% in 2022. The partners will continue to conduct research to increase the level of bio-based content, with the objective of reaching 100%.
“It’s incredible to think that, in the near future, the industry will be able to use a renewably sourced packaging material, which does not compete with food production and contributes to a better planet,” commented Klaus Hartwig, Head of R&D for Nestlé Waters. “It therefore made perfect sense for us to join forces through this Alliance to develop this innovative technology in a large scale and in the shortest time period possible. This is an exciting journey and we are proud to be part of it.”
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