Clap your hands if you believe in the future of bioplastics.
It takes a little faith after the collapse of the Telles JV, what seems like an almost daily PR slap in the face, and clear mismanagement on behalf of some of the players.
But this week a shot was heard around the world that clearly points to the future for plastics made from renewable resources.
The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Motor Company, H.J. Heinz Company, NIKE, Inc. and Procter & Gamble announced the formation of the “Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC)”, which will focus on accelerating development of 100% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) materials and fiber in their products.
This is an All-Star team. It’s like having LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Rajon Rondo on one team and there’s nobody on the other team.
The collaborative builds on work already under way by Coca-Cola with its PlantBottle packaging technology, which is partially made from Brazilian sugar cane. Currently, Heinz licenses the technology from Coca-Cola.
The next step involves more financial and R&D muscle. Most importantly, it shows that these industry leaders want to use renewably sourced plastics—even if they may cost somewhat more in the short term.
In the press release, the group chose to quote an environmental official to explain the initiative.
“Fossil fuels like oil have significant impacts to the planet’s biodiversity, climate and other natural systems,” said Erin Simon, senior program officer of packaging for the 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.”
So this has a nice—and genuine—PR spin.
But as Ron Allen recently explained in an excellent piece in the Los Angeles Times that went viral in part due to its AP distribution, there is also clearly an economic motivation underlying increasing acceptance of bioplastics. It’s good business long-term to reduce cost volatility due to wildly unpredictable global oil markets.