Why Are Food and Beverage Companies Using Bio-Based PET?
“Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute.”, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Further, as per National Geographic society, in just 60 years, a massive 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced around the world, most of which has become trash.
This will also be because of the high-volume consumption of PET, mostly in plastic bottles. Even though such bottles are intended to be for one-time use, they are made strong, which is why their plastic can take to 400 years to degrade on its own.
Apart from its durability, which restricts biodegradation, the depletion of oil and gas reserves is making petrochemical companies produce this material from bio-based feedstock. The raw materials for synthetic PET, terephthalic acid (TPA) and monoethylene glycol, are petroleum products; therefore, with the depleting oil and gas reserves because of overexploitation, their prices fluctuate. Therefore, petrochemical companies are now creating PET from only 70% synthetic TPA and 30% MEG derived from biological feedstock.
Making these products even more eco-friendly, PepsiCo. and The Coca-Cola Company have created PET bottles entirely from plant-based materials, by sourcing even TPA from biological feedstock. This is because both these companies have their own iconic PET bottles, which is why it has become their responsibility, in part, to help reduce plastic pollution by creating eco-friendly variants of such polymers. The rising sales of packaged food and beverages, especially in developing countries, have increased the necessity of taking such steps.
This is why among all the products that bio-based PET is being used to produce, such as bottles, bags, cosmetic containers, blister packs, trays, carpets, foils, and sanitary products, bottles are its largest application area. This is also why the packaging sector utilizes the highest volume of such plastic; other sectors that are now using bio-based PET are medical, electronics, automotive, textile, and horticulture. As per PlasticsEurope, in 2019, packaging plastics accounted for 39.9% (largest share) in the total plastics produced around the world, by purpose.
Currently, Asia-Pacific (APAC) is the largest bio-based PET market because of its huge consumer base. This creates a high demand for processed food and beverages, especially considering the rising disposable income of the people of regional developing countries. As a result, plastic consumption in the form of food packaging is escalating in the region, which is prompting food and beverage companies to use biodegradable PET and other plastics in their packaging material.
In other regions, the demand for this material is growing due to the implementation of stringent emission control laws, such as the Paris Agreement. It has been found that 6 kg of carbon dioxide are emitted by just 1 kg of plastic, which is why governments are forcing industrialists to increase their usage of bioplastics. Such measures are being complemented by those implemented to reduce the usage of fossil fuels altogether, which will further force manufacturers to source alternative raw materials for plastic production.
Hence, with the rising concerns regarding plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the usage of bio-based PET and other plastics will surge.