A packaging revolution: Danone and Nestlé Waters, the world’s two largest bottled water companies, have joined forces with Origin Materials, a startup based in Sacramento, California, to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance. Together, the three partners aim to develop and launch at commercial scale a PET plastic bottle made from bio-based material, i.e. 100% sustainable and renewable resources. PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic in polyester family and is used in fibers for clothing, containers for liquids and foods, thermoforming for manufacturing, and in combination with glass fiber for engineering resins.
The project uses biomass feedstocks, such as previously used cardboard and sawdust, so it does not divert resources or land from food production for human or animal consumption. The technology represents a scientific breakthrough for the sector, and the Alliance aims to make it available to the entire food and beverage industry.
For decades, both Nestlé Waters and Danone have been committed to sustainable business practices, notably by continuously improving their environmental performances and promoting the development of a circular economy. A large part of these efforts has focused on developing innovative packaging solutions that are recyclable and made with renewable resources, as well as the promotion of recycling. After identifying the unique approach of Origin Materials separately, the two companies decided to team up to accelerate development of this promising technology.
“Our goal is to establish a circular economy for packaging by sourcing sustainable materials and creating a second life for all plastics”, declared Frederic Jouin, head of R&D for plastic materials at Danone. “We believe it’s possible to replace traditional fossil materials with bio-based packaging materials. By teaming up and bringing together our complementary expertise and resources, the Alliance can move faster in developing 100% renewable and recyclable PET plastic at commercial scale.”
Danone and Nestlé Waters are providing expertise and teams, as well as financial support, to help Origin Materials make this technology available to the entire food and beverage industry in record time.
This next-generation PET will be as light in weight, transparent, recyclable and protective of the product as today’s PET, while being better for the planet. The exclusive use of renewable feedstocks which do not divert resources or land from food production is the Alliance’s main focus area. The R&D will focus initially on cardboard, sawdust and wood chips but other biomass materials, such as rice hulls, straw and agricultural residue could be explored.
“Current technology on the market makes it possible to have 30% bio-PET,” noted John Bissell, Chief Executive Officer of Origin Materials. “Our breakthrough technology aims to reach 100% bio-based bottles at commercial scale. With the help of our Alliance partners, Origin Materials will be able to scale up a technology which has already been proven at the pilot level.”
The NaturALL Bottle Alliance partners consider that everyone should benefit from this new material, so the technology will be accessible for the entire beverage industry. This unique approach demonstrates the allies’ commitment to open innovation and sustainable business.
“It’s incredible to think that, in the near future, the industry will be able to use a renewably sourced packaging material, which does not compete with food production and contributes to a better planet,” commented Klaus Hartwig, Head of R&D for Nestlé Waters. “It therefore made perfect sense for us to join forces through this Alliance to develop this innovative technology in a large scale and in the shortest time period possible. This is an exciting journey and we are proud to be part of it.”
Origin Materials has already produced samples of 80% bio-based PET in its pilot plant in Sacramento. Construction of a “pioneer plant” will begin in 2017, with production of the first samples of 60+% bio-based PET to start in 2018. The initial volume goal for this first step is to bring 5,000 metric tons of bio-based PET to the market. Thanks to their complementary skills and shared vision, the NaturALL Bottle Alliance aims to develop the process for producing at least 75% bio-based PET plastic bottles at commercial scale as early as in 2020, scaling up to 95% in 2022. The partners will continue to conduct research to increase the level of bio-based content, with the objective of reaching 100%.