Coca-Cola and Danone invest in advanced bioplastics for drinks packaging

Coca-Cola and Danone are among a consortium of companies that are looking to scale up the next generation of bioplastics by investing in a commercial scale facility for the production of PEF (polyethylene furanoate).

Technology provider Avantium has secured €36 million in financing for the PEF facility from this consortium, which also includes existing shareholders. This investment will make it possible to validate the commercial production of PEF and finalise the engineering and design of the plant.

PEF is a 100% renewable plant-based polymer that can be used in multiple applications such as bottles, fibres and film. Its barrier properties are considered superior to oil-based PET, enabling lighter, thinner, smaller and stronger bottles with a smaller footprint. An independent life cycle analysis study by the Copernicus Institute at the University of Utrecht has demonstrated that the carbon footprint of PEF is between 50-70% lower than PET.

In addition, PEF’s enhanced thermal and mechanical properties could make it an ideal material for the packaging of waters, carbonated beverages and alcoholic beverages.

According to Danone, the partnership with Avantium is an important part of the company’s roadmap to develop a bottle made with 100% renewable materials.

Scaling up

Frederic Jouin, who heads up Danone’s Research Packaging Centre, said: “We are participating in this venture as we believe in the future of bio-based plastics for our packaging, with a potential significant reduction in our carbon footprint and enhanced barrier properties compared to PET.

“With this investment, we re-affirm our objective to launch a 100% bio-based bottle, not in direct competition with food, and 100% recyclable, and our wish to accelerate this launch on the market.”

Avantium CEO Tom van Aken said that securing the finance deal was a huge step forward, but that there was plenty of work to be done.

“In our pilot plant in Geleen (NL), we already produce the real material at 20-tonne scale, but obviously our partners need larger quantities for both technical testing and market tests. We have successfully made PEF bottles with YXY technology that meet their needs on performance and sustainability. Now we need to scale up.

“Important is our ultimate goal, the PEF bottle made from responsibly sourced plant-based materials, such as second generation feedstock. With this technology we will realise the packaging of the future.”

Avantium says that it has already performed extensive safety testing of PEF to demonstrate that it is safe for food packaging. The company has filed a food-safety application for PEF with the European Food Safety Association and will apply for food safety certification with the FDA in the USA.

VIDEO: Investing in Avantium

Maxine Perella

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