Coca-Cola has been sharing its PlantBottle technology with non-competitors for several years – in collaborations with companies such as Heinz and Ford – but is now pledging to open technology to competitors in the beverage industry.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey highlighted the importance of collective action.
“One of the actions we’re taking is to make available to anyone - including our competitors - our packaging technology around using plant waste to make plastic bottles, because we want to do is see the biggest collective action on design of sustainable packaging and recovery of sustainable packaging, because that’s the collective action that will make all the industries more sustainable.”
Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle is a fully recyclable PET plastic bottle which replaces around 30% of the petroleum content with material from sugar cane and other plant matter. The result is a bottle which "looks, functions and recycles like traditional PET but has a lighter footprint on the planet and its scarce resources."
First launched in 2009, it is now used in a number of Coca-Cola owned brands: such as Dasani water, Honest Tea and Gold Peak.
PlantBottle accounts for 30% of Coca-Cola packaging by volume in North America and 7% of its packaging globally. In total, Coca-Cola estimates that PlantBottle has avoided the CO2 emissions of nearly 1 million vehicles since 2009.
Coca-Cola has opened up the technology to non-competing companies for several years. Heinz, for example, has been using the technology for its Tomato Ketchup bottles since 2011. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola also shared the technology with the Ford Motor Company for the fabric interior for Fusion hybrid sedans.
And Coca-Cola says the potential of the PlantBottle technology spans the polyester universe, from carpet through to clothing.
Quincey now says the PlantBottle’s IP will be opened up more broadly in 2019: including to competitors in the beverage industry.
Driving supply and demand
Opening up technology to more companies can help drive the technology forward and broaden its potential, says Coca-Cola.
Only a limited number of suppliers produce the type of biomaterial used to make PlantBottle resin, which adds complexity and cost to the production process.
But Coca-Cola says that by encouraging use of bioPET across the beverage industry and beyond, it can drive demand up - and drive pricing down.