Danone joins forces with Nestle and Origin Materials to develop 100% bio-sourced plastic bottles

Danone and Nestlé Waters have joined forces with Origin Materials, a Californian research and development company, to form the Natur’ALL Bottle Alliance. Their aim is to be the first to commercialize 100% bio-based and recyclable PET bottles. To do so, biomass materials, such as old cardboard and wood pulp will be used so as not to divert resources from food production. Pilot production has already begun and the first bottles are expected to hit the shelves by 2020.

Sharing the challenge of making more environmentally-friendly packaging, Nestlé Waters and Danone came across Origin Materials (formerly Micromidas) at about the same time. With their common goal in mind, the world’s two largest mineral water companies and Origin decided to team up to create the Natur’ALL Bottle Alliance.

The goal was simple: launch 100% bio-based PET bottles on the market.

Considering that PET, the most common type of plastic, is currently only 30% bio-based at best, this is not just any challenge. But John Bissell, Chief Executive Officer of Origin Materials, is confident: “our breakthrough technology aims to reach this goal at commercial scale”. In January 2017, pilot production of the next-generation bio-based PET started, with the first samples proving its feasibility.

Wood pulp, but also old cardboard, rice hulls, straw … will be used to produce PET

Renewable resources will be used such as old cardboard and wood pulp, but potentially also other biomass materials like rice hulls and straw in the future. What’s important here is that the process will not divert resources from food production.

This plastic will be 100% recyclable. Moreover, it is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of beverage containers compared with current PET containers.

Meanwhile in terms of quality, the transparency, robustness, lightweight and food safety, will be equal to that of its predecessor, and no major impact on the sales price is forecast.

The fact that Danone is in the race to commercialize 100% renewable bottles should not come as a surprise.

For 50 years now, we have been committed to sustainable business practices and to continuously improving our environmental performances. In 1971, we launched an important campaign to fight littering, and in 1980, were among the first to switch from PVC to PET.

More recently, in November 2016, we released our first packaging policy, which takes into account the source and transformation of the raw material as well as the packaging’s end of life, and highlights the necessity of increasing the percentage of renewable resources. « Our goal is to establish a circular economy for packaging by sourcing sustainable materials and creating a second life for all plastics », declared Frédéric Jouin, head of R&D for plastic materials at Danone.

When can we expect to find the revolutionary Natur’ALL bottles in supermarkets? The construction of a commercial plant is slated to begin in 2020, with production of 75% bio-based PET. The alliance hopes to reach at least 95% bio-based PET by end 2022. Research will then continue with the aim of reaching the golden 100%.

The ultimate goal of the Natur’ALL Bottle Alliance is to make this technology available to the entire beverage industry. This 100% bio-based and renewable PET could thus soon be the new industrial standard.