The company plans to announce details about the new package, called ‘PlantBottle’, in mid-May. Coca-Cola North America is expected to test the bottle with Dasani, its leading water brand, and carbonated beverage brands later this year, and with Vitaminwater in 2010.
At a Washington forum yesterday, Coke chief executive Muhtar Kent hinted about the development and hailed it as a potential breakthrough. “Over the next 10 years, that simple initiative will transform the whole concept of recycling,” he said.
Coke spokeswoman Lisa Manley said: “We’re interested in developing the packaging of the future, which we think is going to be in some ways derived from either plants or something else that’s a naturally occurring resource, and that’s not under stress like petroleum.”
Plastic bottles are made from a petroleum-based resin known as polyethylene terephthalate – or PET for short. PET bottles are recyclable, but the process can be relatively expensive and complex. PET bottles that aren’t recycled can take years to decompose.
Coke’s new type of bottle would be made from a blend of petroleum-based materials and up to 30% of plant-based materials. It’s initially being made with sugarcane and molasses, a by-product of sugar production, but other plant materials are being explored. The blend could make the recycling process easier and cheaper, and reduce the time that discarded bottles sit in landfills.
Coke is one of the biggest producers of plastic bottles, which are a scourge of environmentalists. Consumers drain about a billion plastic PET bottles every week, with only 18-23% recycled, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a non-profit advocacy group in Washington.
Kristin Urquiza, a campaign manager at the advocacy group Corporate Accountability International, said it’s hard to give Coke praise for steps it should have taken earlier. “Coke is on a green blitz,” she said, “but it’s hard to give Coke kudos when they’re just now taking baby steps in taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of its products.”
John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said Coke isn’t alone. Other companies, he said, are experimenting with resins made from corn: “All this research is good for the industry and the planet,” he said, adding that any new packages will have to be “cost-competitive” and make business sense for bottlers, which make and distribute the final product.
Kent mentioned the new bottles in an appearance with former US president Bill Clinton at a forum on business and social responsibility. He suggested that it’s one of many ways Coke is becoming more environmentally and socially responsible.
“I don’t think a responsible business can avoid trying to improve the environment in which it operates,” said Clinton.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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