BioPlastek 2011 Forum: Will Avantium's “PEF” Bottles Meet the Needs of Brand Owners?

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Recent announcements by H.J. Heinz and PepsiCo. to replace petroleum derived PET bottles with green PET have spurred development of a low cost process to produce biobased TPA, a PET building block. Avantium is taking a different approach by using furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) as a replacement for TPA, so as to produce PEF instead of PET. Avantium claims that FDCA is less expensive than TPA. In a presentation to be given at the BioPlastek 2011 Forum on June 27-29, 2011 in New York, Avantium will formally introduce PEF bottles, share comparative performance data, and address the question of recyclability. Avantium anticipates announcement of brand owner endorsements at the Forum.

BioPlastek 2011 Forum

Avantium's bio-based PEF bottles look the same but have superior performance to PET.

The race is on to replace petroleum derived PET bottles with biobased ones. This was kick-started by recent dual announcements, first by H.J. Heinz Company of plans to use Coca-Cola’s 30% plant-based PET PlantBottle for packaging its ketchup, and then by PepsiCo which announced a 100% plant-based PET bottle. Biobased ethylene glycol is available and replaces 30% of the fossil fuel. More uncertain is how the other monomer of PET, namely the TPA component, can be replaced by a biobased version. A number of companies are working to develop cost-effective processes to produce biobased TPA as a direct drop-in replacement for the petro-based TPA.

Netherlands-based Avantium is taking a different approach. The company is planning to use furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) as a replacement for TPA, so as to produce PEF instead of PET. Why this approach? According to the company, FDCA is a less expensive building block than TPA. Moreover, PEF is said to have superior barrier and other performance properties.

In previous conference presentations, Avantium has talked extensively about chemical conversion and scale up progress made towards pilot plant production, stating that they have been able to make PEF in existing PET production assets. Beyond that, not much more application details are available as of this writing.

So then what is new? Avantium will use the BioPlastek 2011 Forum on Bioplastics Today and Tomorrow as the platform to formally introduce PEF bottles blown on existing ISBM lines. The Forum will take place on June 27-29, 2011 at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

This much is known. The PEF bottles will look the same as those made from conventional PET. The company will share comparative performance data on these bottles, and show what it takes to get a sugar molecule through all the processing steps along the value chain, and into a high-performance bottle. No doubt, Avantium will be prepared to address the question of recyclability and recycler concerns that PEF could possibly “contaminate” conventional PET waste streams.

Avantium assures BioPlastek 2011 attendees that much will happen over the next couple of months, and anticipates that it will culminate in brand owner endorsements at the Forum.

In the meantime, BioPlastek 2011 Forum program details are available at http://bioplastek.com. Visitors to the website should check back frequently as additions are still being made to the program featuring over 40 world-class presentations. These include the following brand owners and OEMs: H.J. Heinz, PepsiCo., Campbell Soup, Pepperidge Farm, Mountain Valley Spring, Ford Motor, U.S. Army Natick, Xerox, Kodak, and Rubbermaid.

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Ron Schotland
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