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Soda Bottles of the Future Could Be Made With Plant-Based Plastic

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Plastic waste often ends up in oceans, where it poses a major threat to marine life and ecosystems. The United Nations considers the well-being of life below water to be one of its global goals for sustainable development. You can join us in taking action on this and related issues here.  

Avantium, a biochemicals company in the Netherlands, has plans to use plant sugars to make plastics that could be used for beer and soda bottles, according to the Guardian

Early trials reportedly found that this plant-based plastic would decompose in a year when composted; in normal outdoor conditions, it would take a few years longer. Typical plastic beverage containers take around 450 years to degrade in the ocean, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

But it should still be recycled whenever possible, Tom van Aken, Avantium’s CEO, told the Guardian

“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,” van Aken said. 

The project has the backing of Coca-Cola, Danone, and the beer company Carlsberg. Avantium, Coca-Cola, and Carlsberg are all partners with the the Paper Bottle Company, which is focused on developing sustainable bottle packaging. Some prototype bottles, such as one from Carlsberg, still use a recycled plastic film interior to act as a barrier that will allow the paper to contain the liquid, before the company can "work toward a solution without plastic." 

Avantium believes that its plant-based plastic can start appearing on supermarket shelves in 2023. It will start with making 5,000 metric tons of plastic every year, a “modest” amount according to the Guardian, but could increase production as demand for plant-based plastics grows. 

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The company eventually hopes to produce its plant-based plastic using plant sugars from sustainably sourced biowaste, so that its work will not impact the global food supply. 

The problem of plastic pollution has reached crisis levels in recent years. More than 91% of plastic waste doesn’t get recycled, and the vast majority ends up contaminating land and marine environments. 

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At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and this plastic can entangle marine life or get accidentally eaten by ocean creatures. 

Even in landfills, decomposing plastic poses environmental problems by releasing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, US landfills alone received 26.8 million tons of plastic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.