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Coca-Cola's Biobased Bottles

Ethylene glycol in new Dasani water bottles will be derived from sugar and molasses

by Alexander H. Tullo
May 25, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 21

Credit: Coca-Cola
Credit: Coca-Cola

THE HEAVIEST HITTER in the beverage industry is taking a swing at biobased materials. Later this year, Coca-Cola Co. will introduce bottles for its Dasani-brand water with up to 30% biobased content.

Beverage bottles are typically created from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), made, in turn, by reacting ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. The ethylene glycol in the new Dasani bottles will be derived from sugar and molasses, rather than its usual origin in petroleum and natural gas.

Coca-Cola won't disclose the names of the chemical companies from which it is sourcing the glycol. Michael Schultheis, Coca-Cola's director of sustainable packaging design, tells C&EN that his company will procure the sugar and molasses from India and Brazil.

An Indian firm, India Glycols, boasts of being the world's only producer of glycol made from molasses. Its stated production capacity is 125,000 metric tons per year, via ethanol and ethylene oxide. Brazil's only glycol producer is Oxiteno, which is researching production of glycol and other chemicals from sugarcane and ethanol but isn't in production, according to CEO João Parolin.

Coca-Cola's goal is to introduce bottles made with materials that are 100% recyclable and renewable. For a year, Schultheis says, the company has been researching a biobased alternative to terephthalic acid that it could react with ethylene glycol to make PET. "We have found some things that look interesting," he says. "Our goal would be to end up with the same molecule at the end of the day."

One reason the company wants to stick with PET is its recyclability. The firm recently opened a plant in Spartanburg, S.C., that can recycle 100 million lb of bottles back into soda bottles.


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