New plant-based bottles can degrade in a year

It is hoped the the new plant-based bottle will appear on supermarket shelves by 2023.

In a plan to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers, a biochemicals company in the Netherlands is hoping to kickstart investment in a pioneering project that hopes to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels.

The plans, devised by renewable chemicals company Avantium, already has the backing of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic.

Avantium’s chief executive, Tom van Aken, says he hopes to greenlight a major investment in the world-leading bioplastics plant in the Netherlands by the end of the year.

The project, which remains on track despite the lockdown imposed by coronavirus, is set to reveal partnerships with other food and drink companies later this year.

Coca-Cola and Danone are others that have also shown their support to the project which hopes to secure the future of their bottled products by tackling the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution.

Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made from fossil fuels every year across the globe, 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 which can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

Van Aken said: “This plastic has very attractive sustainability credentials because it uses no fossil fuels, and can be recycled – but would also degrade in nature much faster than normal plastics do.”

The plant plastic is designed to be resilient enough to contain carbonate drinks.

The new bottle will help to tackle a plastic crisis which sees around 300 million tonnes of plastic made from fossil fuels every year across the globe. (Stijn Dijkstra)

Trials have shown that the plastic would decompose in one year using a composter, and a few years longer if left in normal outdoor conditions.

Van Aken said ideally, it should be recycled.

The new plant-based plastic that breaks down sustainable plant sugars into simple chemical structures could appear on supermarket shelves by 2023.

While the project will initially make a much smaller 5,000 tonnes of plastic every year using sugars from corn, wheat or beets, Avantium expects production to grow as demand for renewable plastics climbs.

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