At a time when everyone is fretting about their “carbon footprint,” it’s nice to see that Coca-Cola has decided to to reduce the amount of petroleum used to make their bottles by using some plant-based plastic. But not just any plant: the bottles will be made from mono-ethylene glycol derived from sugar cane.
The change doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to toss Coke bottles on your compost pile. It means that the process of making the bottles will (in theory) use fewer nonrenewable resources, and in turn the bottles will have a shorter shelf life and may not hold carbonation as well as bottles made from dead dinosaurs.
Traditional plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as PET, which is derived from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. In 2006, production of plastic bottles for U.S. beverage consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, according to the Pacific Institute, a California-based environmental think tank.
The new plant-based bottle developed by Coke is composed of 70% petroleum-based and 30% sugar-cane-based materials. The cane is crushed and mashed to produce juice, which is then fermented and distilled, producing ethanol. That ethanol is then converted through a series of chemical processes such as oxidation to a mono-ethylene glycol—a component normally derived from petroleum for use in plastic bottles. The MEG is then mixed with terephthalic acid to create PET plastic.
You know what else sugar cane is really good for? Making soda. Look into it, Coke.
Coke’s New Bottle Is Part Plant [Wall Street Journal] (Thanks, GitEmSteveDave!)