Coke, Ford, Nike, others back petroleum-free, plant-based plastics

Five of the country’s biggest companies are throwing their weight behind plants.

In the name of eco-friendliness, the Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co., H.J. Heinz Co., Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble have banded together to develop and use plant-based PET plastics in products including bottles, apparel, footwear, automotive fabrics and carpets.

PET, known officially as polyethylene terephthalate, is a durable and lightweight resin. Plant-based versions don’t require petroleum, as many other plastics do.

Coke’s current PlantBottle initiative draws from a similar idea and uses packaging partially made from a material derived from sugar cane. Heinz uses the same setup for some of its ketchup bottles.

Coke, the largest soft drink maker in the world, isn’t the only one jumping on green packaging. PepsiCo last year revealed a plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources such as pine bark, grass and corn husks. The company, which owns brands such as Tropicana and Frito-Lay, said it also plans to explore other materials such as orange peels and oat hulls.


The recent high prices for crude oil have many companies looking into more natural ingredients for their products. Ford uses soybean foam for its upholstery; other companies are producing petroleum-free memory foam mattresses, detergents, candles and more.

Members of the new PET collaborative said they hope to find new uses for the plastic while backing life-cycle studies and standardized terminology for companies and consumers.

The group even scored a plug from the World Wildlife Fund.

“Fossil fuels like oil have significant impacts to the planet’s biodiversity, climate and other natural systems,” said Erin Simon, the advocacy group’s senior program officer of packaging. “Sustainably managing our natural resources and finding alternatives to fossil fuels are both business and environmental imperatives.”


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