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Suntory Group introduces 100 percent plant-based PET bottle prototypes

Japan-headed beverages major Suntory Group has announced that, as a crucial step toward its aim to use 100 percent sustainable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles globally by 2030 and eliminate all petroleum-based virgin plastic from its global PET supply, the company has successfully created a prototype PET bottle made from 100 percent plant-based materials.

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Suntory Group has created a prototype PET bottle made from 100 percent plant-based materials (photo courtesy Suntory).

The prototype has been produced for the company’s iconic Orangina brand in Europe along with its best-selling bottled mineral water brand in Japan, Suntory Tennensui. The announcement marks a breakthrough after a nearly decade-long partnership with the US-based sustainable technology company Anellotech Inc.

PET is produced using two raw materials, 70 percent terephthalic acid (PTA) and 30 percent mono ethylene glycol (MEG). Suntory’s prototype plant-based bottle is made by combining Anellotech’s new technology, a plant-based paraxylene derived from woodchips, 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. 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, said Tsunehiko Yokoi, Executive Officer of Suntory MONOZUKURI Expert Ltd.

Eliminate all petroleum-derived virgin PET plastic bottles by 2030

This innovation is an additional step towards achieving Suntory Group’s ambition to eliminate the use of all petroleum-derived virgin PET plastic bottles globally by transitioning to 100 percent recycled or plant-based PET bottles by 2030.

The fully recyclable prototype plant-based bottle is estimated to significantly lower carbon emissions compared to a petroleum-derived virgin bottle.

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. 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, said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech.

This technology is one of the latest investments from Suntory in the company’s 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.”

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

Suntory has been entrenched in the work to create sustainable packaging solutions since 1997. This plant-based bottle prototype honors our historic dedication while shining 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.

According to the company, this milestone “amplifies the great momentum of Suntory’s continuous work on promoting a plastic circular economy, through the development of sustainable materials, adoption of circular processes, investment to pioneer advanced technologies, and promotion of behavioral change for consumers.”

Suntory aims to commercialize this 100 percent plant-based bottle as soon as possible to meet its 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal.

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