Mountain Dew's green bottles could become even "greener" with an announcement from PepsiCo claiming it has developed the world's first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. The bottle not only offers a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to petroleum-based PET, but is also 100 percent recyclable.
The company says that by combining biological and chemical processes it has come up with a way to create a molecular structure that is identical to petroleum-based PET using plant-based materials, resulting in a bottle that looks and feels identical to current PET bottles. In the future, PepsiCo hopes to expand the renewable resources used to create the bottles to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its food business.
"PepsiCo is in a unique position, as one of the world's largest food and beverage businesses, to ultimately source agricultural byproducts from our foods business to manufacture a more environmentally-preferable bottle for our beverages business," said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi.
With the announcement PepsiCo gets some bragging rights over its main competitor. In comparison, Coca-Cola currently produces bottles that use 30 percent plant-based materials although it says it has produced a 100 percent plant-based bottle in the lab that is still undergoing testing. With both companies producing billions of PET bottles between them each year, the switch from petroleum-based to plant-based PET could have significant environmental impacts.
Over 60 percent of the world's petroleum-based PET production is used as polyester for textile applications, while bottle production – usually for soft drinks – accounts for around 30 percent of global PET demand.
The plant-based bottle isn't the first effort by PepsiCo to move towards more environmentally sustainable packaging. Its Frito-Lay division was also responsible for the world's first fully compostable bag made from plant-based polylactic acid for its SunChips snacks in the U.S. and Canada.
PepsiCo says it will pilot production of the new bottle in 2012 and upon the expected successful completion of the pilot intends to move directly into full-scale commercialization.