The bottles are to be made using polylactic acid (PLA), a corn-based polymer produced by US-based NatureWorks.
"The market for PLA bottles is attracting a lot of attention in Europe and consumers are starting to show an interest in packaging made from renewable resources," stated Frans Van Dooren,Amcor PET Packaging's marketing communications manager.
Many analysts believe that biodegradable packaging has a bright future. Growing environmental awareness and consumer power coupled with the inexorable rise in pre-packaged disposable meals meansthat food manufacturers and packagers are increasingly being targeted to improve their environmental performances
In addition, a combination of pricing and retail uptake has led more and more processors to look at biodegradable natural polymer products such as PLA as an alternative to polyethyleneterephthalate (PET). The sharp rise in the prices for petroleum, a major component of PET, has made PLA a competitive alternative.
NatureWorks, a Cargill unit, has already made inroads into the European marketplace, with retailers like Auchan in France and Delhaize in Belgium testing the company's PLA product on a number offood products. This month Wal-Mart said its Sam's Club outlets would begin using PLA for packaging in fresh cut produce in the US beginning in November 2005.
Amcor PET Packaging said it has already designed and produced preforms and bottles made out of the renewable material PLA in conjunction with Canada-based Husky Injection Molding Systems, anequipment manufacturer.
Preforms for the initial phase of the roll-out will be produced on a Husky HyPET 90. On the equipment side, the capital costs of a PLA system compared to a PET system are very similar, thecompanies stated.
The main cost component is resin, and PLA is comparable to PET on a pound-for-pound basis, they stated. PLA is suitable for injection stretch blow molding.
"The fact that Amcor, one of the world's largest packaging producers, is involved with PLA should encourage more converters to explore and become involved in PLA processing," statedMike Urquhart, Husky's vice president of PET Systems.
PLA can be used for non-carbonated beverages such as water, juices, milk, as well as edible oil products.
Amcor said it anticipates the bottling technology will find its market in edible oils, still mineral waters and fresh chilled milk. For edible oils, the Amcor bottle can incorporate a speciallightweight neck finish to use the new Galileo closure range from Bericap.
Galileo offers savings on the neck finish weight and the closure weight. The range includes one and two-piece closures with reactive hinge and new features for edible oil.