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Biobased Chemicals

Coca-Cola looks to make plastic bottles from wood

by Alexander H. Tullo
October 30, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 40

Coca-Cola is partnering with the Finnish forest products maker UPM to make biobased ethylene glycol for its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. As part of its PlantBottle program, Coca-Cola has been sourcing biobased ethylene glycol from partners such as India Glycols since 2009. The glycol is reacted with terephthalic acid to make PET, creating a 30% biobased plastic. Working with China’s Changchun Meihe Science and Technology, Coca-Cola developed a catalytic technology for converting saccharides and hydrogen into diols. UPM will use this technology at a biorefinery it’s building in Leuna, Germany, and plans to open by 2023. The refinery will have the capacity to make 220,000 metric tons per year of ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and lignin-based fillers from wood residue. UPM will make the glycols available to others in the plastics industry, including Coca-Cola competitors. In another advance of PlantBottle, Coca-Cola has made 900 prototype bottles that are biobased except for the cap and label. For this, the company used terephthalic acid derived from biobased p-xylene produced by Wisconsin-based Virent.


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