Suntory Group has produced a prototype PET bottle made from 100 per cent plant-based materials for its Orangina and Suntory Tennensui bottled mineral water brands in Europe and Japan.

This technology is one of the latest investments from Suntory in the company’s long history of addressing the social and environmental impacts of containers and packaging. In 1997, Suntory established its Guidelines for the Environmental Design of Containers and Packaging.

Suntory' plans to commercialise the 100 per cent plant-based bottle as soon as possible to meet its 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal.
Suntory plans to commercialise the 100 per cent plant-based bottle as soon as possible to meet its 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal.

For plastic bottles specifically, it has used its 2R+B (Reduce/Recycle + Bio) strategy to reduce the weight of containers, including labels and caps, and actively introduce recycled or plant-based materials in its plastic bottles used globally.

Most significantly, Suntory says, it has created the lightest bottle cap, the thinnest bottle label, and the lightest PET bottle produced in Japan to date.

The 100 per cent plant-based PET bottle innovation is an additional step towards achieving Suntory Group’s ambition to eliminate use of all petroleum-derived virgin PET plastic bottles globally by transitioning to 100 per cent recycled or plant-based PET bottles by 2030. The fully recyclable prototype plant-based bottle is estimated to significantly lower carbon emissions compared to petroleum derived virgin bottle.

PET is produced using two raw materials, 70 per cent terephthalic acid (PTA) and 30 per cent mono ethylene glycol (MEG). Suntory’s prototype plant-based bottle is made by combining Anellotech’s new technology, a plant-based paraxylene derived from wood chips, which has been converted to plant-based PTA, and pre-existing plant-based MEG made from molasses which Suntory has been using in its Suntory Tennensui brand in Japan since 2013.

“We’re delighted with this achievement, as it brings us one step closer to delivering this sustainable PET bottle to the hands of our consumers,” said Tsunehiko Yokoi, executive officer of Suntory Monozukuri Expert Ltd. “The significance of this technology is that the PTA is produced from non-food biomass to avoid competition with the food chain, while MEG is also derived from non-food grade feedstock.”

“This achievement is the result of over ten years of thorough and painstaking development work by Anellotech’s dedicated employees, together with Suntory and other partners,” said David Sudolsky, president and CEO of Anellotech.

“The competitive advantage of Anellotech’s Bio-TCat generated paraxylene is its process efficiency (it uses a single-step thermal catalytic process by going directly from biomass to aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylene), as well as the opportunity it creates for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to its identical fossil-derived paraxylene in the manufacture of PET, especially as it generates required process energy from the biomass feedstock itself.”

“Suntory has been entrenched in the work to create sustainable packaging solutions since 1997. This plant-based bottle prototype honours our historic dedication while shining a light, not only on our path to achieving our 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal, but also towards our ambition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the entire value chain by 2050,” said Tomomi Fukumoto, COO of Sustainability Management at Suntory Holdings.

This milestone amplifies the great momentum of Suntory’s continuous work in promoting a plastic circular economy, through the development of sustainable materials, adoption of circular processes, investment to pioneer advanced technologies and promotion of behavioural change for consumers.

According to leading data and analytics company GlobalData, Suntory’s claims that its plant-based bottle overcomes several issues associated with bioplastics represents a step forward for the beverages industry towards the holy grail of biodegradable packaging

“Compostable/biodegradable plastics are presently a lower priority than recyclable packaging for Japanese consumers validated by as GlobalData’s Q3 2021 consumer survey. Only 30% of Japanese respondents in the survey consider compostable/biodegradable an important factor in a product, when compared with 63% of respondents who prioritise easy to recycle products,” said Bobby Verghese, consumer analyst at GlobalData.

“This is partly as consumers are disillusioned by earlier plant-based packaging innovations such as Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle, which failed to take off after the initial hype due to functional and cost challenges. Also, a large section of consumers are unsure how the biodegradable bottles will safeguard its contents.”

“Suntory’s plant-based bottle can attract 39% of Japanese consumers who consider products with reduced carbon footprint to be quite/extremely important, and 41% of consumers who say the same for products that are sustainable/made from renewable sources. However, the pros and cons of the bioplastic will only come to light after the full-fledged market launch,” he added.

Suntory aims to commercialise the 100 per cent plant-based bottle as soon as possible to meet its 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal.

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