PepsiCo unveils 100 percent plant-based bottle

Mar 16, 2011 By ANICK JESDANUN , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- Remember the Cola Wars? Get ready for the Bottle Wars. PepsiCo Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant material, which it says bests the technology of competitor Coca-Cola and reduces its potential carbon footprint.

The is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.

The new bottle looks, feels and protects the drink inside exactly the same as its current bottles, Papalia said. “It’s indistinguishable.”

PepsiCo says it is the world’s first bottle of a common type of called PET made entirely of plant-based materials. Coca-Cola Co. currently produces a bottle using 30 per cent plant-based materials and recently estimated it would be several years before it has a 100 per cent plant bottle that’s commercially viable.

“We’ve cracked the code,” said Rocco Papalia, senior vice-president of advanced research of PepsiCo.

The discovery potentially changes the industry standard for plastic packaging. Traditional plastic, called PET, is used in beverage bottles, food pouches, coatings and other common products.

The plastic is the go-to because it’s lightweight and shatter-resistant, its safety is well-researched and it doesn’t affect flavours. It is not biodegradable or compostable. But it is fully recyclable, a characteristic both companies maintain in their new creations.

Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels, like petroleum, a limited resource that’s rising in price. By using instead, companies reduce their environmental impact. Pepsi says the new plastic will cost about the same as traditional plastic.

The company, based in Purchase, N.Y., said it has had dozens of people working on the process for years. While PepsiCo wouldn’t specify the cost to research and design the new bottle, Papalia said it is in the millions of dollars.

It’s one of several steps PepsiCo has taken recently to reduce its environmental impact. The company created a fully compostable bag for its SunChips line. It cut the amount of plastic in its Aqua-Fina bottle in 2009. And its Naked Juice line is in the midst of switching to a bottle made entirely of recycled plastic bottles.

PepsiCo says of its 19 biggest brands, those that generate more than $1 billion (dollar figures U.S.) in revenue, 11 are beverage brands that use PET. The company says the packaging will cost roughly the same as it does today.

PepsiCo plans to test the product in 2012 in a few hundred thousand bottles. Once the company is sure it can successfully produce the bottle at that scale, it will begin converting all its products.

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dogbert
4 / 5 (3) Mar 16, 2011
Making plastic from plant material is a technological accomplishment, but it is still non-biodegradable plastic.

It would be better if companies returned to using glass bottles which are reusable.
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2011
I would certainly like to examine a life cycle cost comparison of the two products, I would wager a small sum that the plastic is less costly by all reasonable standards.
Simonsez
5 / 5 (2) Mar 16, 2011
That's great that they've found a way to use 100% renewable materials for their plastics (nevermind the problem of this type of plastic melting/warping in significant heat sources such as are experienced in the day to day shipping of soft drinks). However, "going green" won't get me to change my mind about their product or the fact that I purchase a soft drink based on flavor preference (always Coca-Cola).
dogbert
3 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2011
jonnyboy
I would wager a small sum that the plastic is less costly by all reasonable standards.


I have no doubt that is correct. They still would do better to return to glass bottles.
Pkunk_
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 16, 2011
Making plastic from plant material is a technological accomplishment, but it is still non-biodegradable plastic.

It would be better if companies returned to using glass bottles which are reusable.


If they can make shatter proof glass which is lighweight like PET, everyone would jump at it .
CSharpner
5 / 5 (4) Mar 16, 2011
If it doesn't make it taste more like Coke, I won't be buying it. :b
trekgeek1
not rated yet Mar 16, 2011
Yeah, Coke is way better. Once I left a coke on my desk for a whole night and the next day I picked it up by accident thinking it was my fresh Coke that I had just opened. It was warm and surprised the hell out of me when I sipped it, but it was still carbonated and tasted fine. Pepsi tastes like crap and loses carbonation in minutes.

Anyway, glass is reusable, but so is plastic. Having to wash and disinfect glass bottles for reuse is probably comparable to recycling a plastic bottle. And I love that plastic doesn't shatter into little blades. It always makes me nervous at the beach that broken glass will be in the sand. Plastic is more or less safe, cheap, and recyclable. If I have made an outrageously false point, please point it out so that the error does not propagate.
soulman
not rated yet Mar 16, 2011
Plastic is more or less safe, cheap, and recyclable. If I have made an outrageously false point, please point it out so that the error does not propagate.

I think you've overlooked the feminizing hormone (BPA) issue thought to be leeched out of some plastic food/drink containers into the environment (male fish turning female in some waterways due to high BPA levels, though perhaps from industrial pollution).

Low doses of BPA cause structural changes in the brain leading to learning deficits and hyperactivity. It may also harm the prostate gland and cause premature puberty.

I don't think this has been settled yet, and there are 'safe' alternative plastics (like PETE, LDPE, HDPE), but nevertheless, there is still some concern out there.
Mercury_01
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
They're still making bottles out of polluting plastic. Couldn't they have spent all that research money on aiming for something biodegradable? the ocean is full of plastic, and our biggest polluters are going to get their nods and thumbs up for being green and trendy even though they haven't changed anything for the better. Sure, less plastic will have to be made from petroleum, but it isn't the plastics industry that's choking our atmosphere, its energy production.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
The problem with glass bottle is twofold. They break, which has already been mentioned. And they weigh a lot more than the plastic bottles. Both cost money.

Ethelred
soulman
5 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
The problem with glass bottle is twofold. They break, which has already been mentioned. And they weigh a lot more than the plastic bottles. Both cost money.

And because of the latter, transportation costs are higher, which means more GHG emissions per unit.
rjsc2000
5 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2011
When a company has miliions or billions on revenue, i don't think a million lost is a big deal.

I'm much more concerned that the millions of plastic bottles means we have spent a great deal of petroleum which is a finite product that took million of years to produce...

If we can make a bottle out of "orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business" it would be great.

If we can make plastic that is 100% renewable, i would prefer it any time. Starting with a certain quantity of raw materials, we didn't have to buy more raw materials because it would be recyclable.
antialias
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
I would wager a small sum that the plastic is less costly by all reasonable standards.
However I'd also wager that the consumer would pay the extra cent or two (if Pepsi would taste anything like Coke, that is)

And playstic will sooner or later become more costly as it is manufactured from non renewable resources.

And if we canmake it out of scraps the raw material costs should be lower than what is needed for the other kind. Processing costs can be brought down through scale. So I think this is actually a pretty big breakthrough.