Author: Nell Armitage
In 2017, Coca-Cola produced 3 million tonnes of plastic which is roughly the same weight as 28,000 Blue Whales. But thanks to pressure from organisations such as Ellen MacArthur Foundation and TearFund, Coca-Cola, along with other food giant Danone, has committed to a new generation of bottles made from plant sugars.
Developed by Avantium, a biochemical company from the Netherlands, the new bottle is 100% plant-based, has been manufactured without the use of fossil fuels and is designed to be both recyclable and compostable. In fact you could leave it in your garden under normal conditions and it would degrade within a year.
Is it really more environmentally friendly?
The market is saturated with new technologies supposedly using plants to solve the plastic waste crisis, with coffee cups, shopping bags and plastic bottles made from materials ranging from seaweed to sugarcane and bamboo, but how much better are they really?
The plant sugars for this bottle will be extracted from low-impact crops, such as cereals or beetroot, with a plan to eventually source the necessary material from naturally occurring food waste, duelling tackling the two issues hand in hand. As food waste contributes 10% of global carbon emissions, according to the United Nations, this could significantly improve the sustainability profile of the product.
Imperial College have conducted a life-cycle analysis and have found that the bottle would reduce carbon emissions by up to 25% compared with petroleum-based PET (made from fossil fuels). Perhaps not as much as you would’ve thought, but still a significant reduction.
What’s the problem with plastic anyway?
About 13 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Microplastics in the sea have been found in massive quantities in sea–beds, impacting fragile ecosystems with accumulating pollutants and early research shows worrying build–up in smaller marine life.
The Covid-19 pandemic has the power to set us back decades in our fight against single–use plastic. Cautious reopeners will be tempted to revert back to single-use as a hygienic option whilst the plastic industry fans the flames claiming that plastic is necessary to keep the pandemic at bay and keep customers and staff safe.
Coca-Cola and Danone who have both backed the project hope that their products will be available in their bottles by 2023. Let’s hope others will piggyback on this endeavour to reduce plastic waste. In the meantime, offer your patrons a more sustainable option that traditional plastic. Check out our beverage suppliers for inspiration.