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Danone joins Coca-Cola in working with bio-based bottle producer

By Joe Whitworth , 27-Mar-2012
Last updated on 27-Mar-2012 at 14:57 GMT

An Avantium PEF bottle
An Avantium PEF bottle

Danone has followed Coca-Cola in partnering with bio-technology developer Avantium, who will produce eco-friendly bottles for the global drinks manufacturer.

The partnership between Avantium and Danone Research will see bottles produced from polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a 100% biobased alternative to polyethylene terephthalate (PET), for use by Danone in its bottled water.

Avantium did not disclose the scale or timeline of water bottle production for Danone, but the news comes months after Coca-Cola agreed a contract with Avantium as one of three research firms looking at replacing purified terephtalic acid (PTA) in its eco-friendly PlantBottle with plant-based materials.

PEF is made using Avantium’s YXY technology, which converts carbohydrates from plants, grains, energy crops, lignocellulosic matter, waste streams, waste paper or agricultural residues, into a variety of bio-based polymers.

The bio-sourced material can deliver superior light weighting, barrier and thermal properties versus conventional PET technology, according to the Netherlands-based company.

Huge market

Avantium CEO Tom van Aken told BeverageDaily.com there is a huge opportunity for bio-based bottles with market size not becoming a limiting factor for the “forseeable future”.

Next to bottles we believe that PEF film for flexible packaging will be an attractive market segment, as we can benefit from enhanced barrier properties, in particular oxygen barrier.

Our YXY technology for the packaging industry creates a new bio-sourced material delivering superior functional properties versus conventional PET technology (for example light weighting potential, barrier and thermal properties),” he said.

The firm is looking at existing supply and recycling chains, “enabling a full transition to bio-based PEF bottles in three to five years from now.”

A pilot plant has already opened in the Netherlands, with a capacity of 40 tonnes and is expected to launch commercial material from 2016.

Van Aken said furanics, a class of green building blocks named after the furan ring, had not been commercialized, until the YXY technology was developed because production wasn’t cost-effective.

PET bottles are a 15m ton market (based on resin volume) with a strong pull for green material.

This strong pull for green[material]in combination with the excellent product properties of PEF (barrier and thermal) make bottles a highly attractive application area for our YXY technology, as evidenced by our partnership with Danone and The Coca-Cola Company.”

Commercial opportunity

He said the collaborations with Danone and Coca-Cola were key to securing a smooth transition into mass production of PEF bottles.

Our strategy is to target applications where PEF or other furan-dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) based polymers have clear advantages over PET or other petroleum based plastics.”

Van Aken added the main challenge for the sector was to become cost effective with petroleum based products.

We have already reached the yields and process conditions for our YXY technology where we can compete on price with petroleum based PTA. Now we will need to reach the scale needed to be cost competitive (for FDCA to be cost competitive we need to produce at ~300 kton/year scale).

Another challenge is to address recycling of PEF, as this is a next generation polymer. Using existing assets, we have demonstrated that PEF can be fully reprocessed and that PEF can be fully de-polymerized.”

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