The Plant Pet Technology Collaborative (PTC) is a strategic work group that also involves development specialists from four other leading global companies, Coca Cola, Ford Motor Company, H.J. Heinz and Nike.
The initiative will be focused on the development and use of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fibres for a variety of consumer products.
PET is widely used across most consumer industries
In the consumer world the material is probably best known for its use in plastic drinking bottles, but is extensively used for the packaging of personal care products used in just about every product category, but most commonly in hair care and skin care.
Conventional PET is a light-weight and flexible material that is easy to work with and relatively cheap to produce, but its carbon footprint is enlarged due to the fact that the material is produced using significant amounts of fossil fuels.
"Fossil fuels like oil have significant impacts to the planet's biodiversity, climate and other natural systems" said Erin Simon, senior programme officer of packaging for World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
"Sustainably managing our natural resources and finding alternatives to fossil fuels are both business and environmental imperatives. It's encouraging to see these leading companies use their market influence to reduce dependence on petroleum-based plastics. We hope other companies will follow their lead."
Initiative sparked by Coke’s PlantBottle
The PTC initiative is being led by Coca Cola, which has already developed the PlantBottle, a plastic bottle that has been developed by using plant by-products, a process that is said to significantly reduce the carbon footprint for the product.
On the back of the success of the project, Coca Cola has licensed the technology for use by the Heinz company in the manufacturing of ketchup bottles throughout North America.
The aim of the collaborative project is to build on the technology developed by Coca Cola with the PlantBottle, to see if the material can be expanded into a host of other applications for a cross section of industries, including PET packaging for cosmetic and personal care products.
The PTC members have committed to the project and say they are united in the aim of researching and developing plastic materials based on plant by-products through common methodologies and criteria such as life cycle analyses and universal terminology.
Global bioplastics market set to double by 2015
The global bioplastics market is set to double by the year 2015 and this initiative underlines the fact that some of the biggest industry players are already adopting the material because it is a more sustainable and highly viable alternative to PET.
The European Bioplastics association estimating that in 2011 700,000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced worldwide in 2011, a figure that is expected to explode in coming years, leading to a production total of 1.4 million tonnes by 2015.
With the majority of this growth expected to come from demand for packaging used in fast moving consumer goods, cosmetics players, both big and small, are expected to contribute significantly to this growth, as they tap into the trend for sustainably sourced products with greener credentials.