JAPAN – Japanese beverage company, Suntory Holdings, has partnered with three multinational manufacturers in the research and production of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles with renewable materials replacing fossil alternatives on a commercial scale.

Suntory is undertaking this transformative ingenuity in partnership with Neste, a Finland-based supplier of renewable fuels and feedstock for plastics, ENEOS, a Japanese oil and energy company, and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Traditional PET bottles, commonly used for packaging beverages and other consumer goods, are predominantly derived from fossil fuels.

PET is a type of clear, strong, lightweight plastic, preferred for plastic bottles. Just like most plastics, new PET is predominantly synthesized from fossil hydrocarbons – although PET bottles in many regions come with high collection and recycling rates.

The companies are set to manufacture fossil-free PET bottles using waste and residues, including used cooking oil, in a bid to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more circular economy.

ENEOS will use bio-intermediates based on Neste RE to produce bio-PX (Bio-Paraxylene) at its Mizushima Refinery in Okayama, Japan.

The bio-PX will then be converted to PTA (Purified Terephthalic Acid) and subsequently to PET resin for Suntory to use to manufacture their PET bottles.

Mitsubishi Corporation will be coordinating the collaboration between the value chain partners. A mass balancing approach will be applied to allocate the bio-based feedstock to the PET bottles, which will be used by Suntory for its products in 2024.

Neste uses bio-based materials such as waste and residue oils and fats and turns them into renewable fuels and raw materials for polymers.

In the mid-to-long term, it expects to introduce novel vegetable oils derived from advanced, more sustainable agricultural concepts to its raw material portfolio.

Neste RE, being ‘drop in’ feedstock means that it can be used to replace fossil feedstock in the production of all kinds of plastics without the need to change the infrastructure.

“Our Neste technology allows us to turn renewable raw materials into pure hydrocarbons that can then be used in the existing plastic value chains and infrastructure,” explained Lilyana Budyanto, head of sustainable partnerships APAC at Neste Renewable Polymers and Chemicals business unit.

While Neste RE can and has been used in value chains for polypropylene, polyethylene, or other polymers, the cooperation with Suntory marks the first time renewable Nestle RE is being used for the production of PET.

“We believe this project to be among the first instances of fully renewable PET in general,” Budyanto said, adding that the renewable feedstock replaces fossil feedstock in the production of PET bottles.

 “This will lead to a decrease in the dependence on fossil resources and an improved carbon footprint for the PET bottles,” he noted.

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