Using plant-based, fully renewable resources, the company plans to manufacture a beverage container with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
For years, scientists and inventors have offered up futuristic alternatives to the resource-intensive plastic packaging clogging up our landfills and recycling bins. And for just as many years, practical environmentalists have said that these designs are all well and good, but until the day they're used in mainstream commercial production, their impact will be minuscule.
It appears that day may not be as far away as we thought.
PepsiCo recently announced it has developed the world's first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based fully renewable resources. The innovative packaging is made from bio-based raw materials, including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. In the future, the company expects to broaden the renewable sources used to create the "green" bottle to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its foods business.
Combining biological and chemical processes, PepsiCo has identified methods to create a molecular structure that is identical to petroleum-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which results in a bottle that looks, feels and protects its product identically to existing PET beverage containers, but without all the nasty side-effects.
Here are some fun facts that put the environmental impacts of traditional plastic bottle production in perspective:
- Plastic bottles take 700 years to begin composting
- 90% of the cost of a bottled beverage is due to the bottle itself
- 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled
- 38 million plastic bottles go to the dump per year in America from bottled water alone (not including soda)
- 24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles
- 75% of all soda consumed in the United States is purchased in bottle (or can)
- Bottled water is the second most popular beverage in the United States
PepsiCo will pilot production of the new bottle in 2012. Upon successful completion of the pilot, the company intends to move directly to full-scale commercialization.
Although we still have issues with the un-healthiness of many PepsiCo products, we applaud this move toward packaging that has a less severe impact on the planet. The processed-food giant has made many strides to reduce the post-use carbon footprint of their products recently, including compostable SunChips bags and the Naked Juice 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic reNEWabottle.