Globally around 300 million tons of plastic is made from fossil fuels every year, which is a major contributor to the climate crisis. Most of this is not recycled and contributes to the scourge of microplastics in the world’s oceans.
Among the main trouble-makers in this pollution crisis are single-use plastic bottles, 1.3 billion of which are sold every day, with the vast majority ending up in landfills and the environment. But soon bottled products may come without their heavy environmental footprint, thanks to a pioneering project from the Netherlands to make “all-plant” drink bottles.
Dutch biochemicals company Avantium hopes to kickstart investment in an ambitious project that aims to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels, in partnership with major beverage makers.
The plans have already won the support of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic. Other major partners include Coca-Cola and Danone, which hope to secure the future of their bottled products by tackling the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution and a reliance on fossil fuels.
Avantium’s plant plastic is designed to be resilient enough to contain carbonate drinks. Trials have shown that the plant plastic would decompose in one year using a composter, and a few years longer if left in normal outdoor conditions. But ideally, it should be recycled, according to the company.
The path-finder project will initially make a modest 5,000 tonnes of plastic every year using sugars from corn, wheat, or beets. And to prevent disruptions to the global food supply chain, the firm plans to use plant sugars from sustainably sourced biowaste. The first plant-based plastic bottles are expected to appear on supermarket shelves by 2023.