A biochemicals company by the name Avantium from the Netherlands is raising big hopes for a sustainable future with their pioneering project that can make plastics from plant sugars.
Plant Based Bottles by Avantium. Photo: Avantium Official Website
Globally around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made from fossil fuels every year, which is a major contributor to the climate crisis. Most of this is not recycled and contributes to ocean pollution with microplastics that takes hundreds of years to decompose completely.
“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,” says Avantium’s chief executive, Tom van Aken.
Avantium’s plant plastic is designed to be resilient enough to contain carbonate drinks Trials have shown that the plant plastic would decompose in one year using a composter, and a few years longer if left in normal outdoor conditions. But ideally, it should be recycled.
The bio-refinery plans to break down sustainable plant sugars into simple chemical structures that can then be rearranged to form a new plant-based plastic – which could appear on supermarket shelves by 2023.
Van Aken, says he hopes to greenlight a major investment in the world-leading bioplastics plant in the Netherlands by the end of the year. The project, which remains on track despite the coronavirus lockdown, is set to reveal partnerships with other food and drink companies later in the summer.
The plans, devised by renewable chemicals company Avantium, have already won the support of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic. The project also has the backing of Coca-Cola and Danone already.
The path-finder project will initially make a modest 5,000 tonnes of plastic every year using sugars from corn, wheat or beets. However, Avantium expects its production to grow as demand for renewable plastics climbs.
In time, Avantium plans to use plant sugars from sustainable sourced biowaste so that the rise of plant plastic does not affect the global food supply chain.