Sustainability Outside the Box - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Sustainability Outside the Box
Drugmakers and packagers are pursuing various initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints. This article contains bonus material.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 35, Issue 10, pp. 40-44

One family of bio-based amorphous PET films contains as much as 30% renewable content. Derived from ethylene made from sugarcane, the films run on the same tooling as petroleum-based PET and exhibit identical properties (TerraPET films, Klöckner Pentaplast).

In other industries, major brands have introduced containers made of biobased HDPE or PET. PepsiCo claims to have created the first PET bottle made from 100% plant-based, renewable materials such as switch grass, pine bark, and corn husks. Pilot production will begin in 2012, followed by full-scale commercialization. Eventually, the company plans to use orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls, and other agricultural byproducts from its foods business as the source material.

PET bottles with 100% plant-based content require plant-based ingredients such as ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid (PTA). Plant-based ethylene glycol has been available for some time and accounts for about 30% of the finished bottle. At least one biobased ethanol plant is operating in Brazil (Braskem). Another is under construction in Santa Vitória, Brazil (joint venture between The Dow Chemical Co. and Mitsui & Co.).

Plant-based PTA is just becoming available and typically starts with plant-based para-xylene, a precursor to PTA (sugar-beet-based para-xylene, Virent Energy Systems). Another plant-based para-xylene has been used successfully to make test quantities of PET film and is in the scale-up stage. It's also being studied for use in bottles (plant-based para-xylene, Gevo).

PET PlantBottle containers for Coca-Cola's Dasani water contain 30% renewable content based on sugarcane. Coca-Cola predicts that sales of products in PlantBottle containers will exceed 5 billion in 2011—about twice the number sold in 2010. Market reach has also grown from nine countries in 2010 to 15 in 2011. Coca-Cola also has developed an HDPE PlantBottle based on ethanol derived from sugarcane. It is used for single-serving containers for Odwalla juice products.

Other brand owners using sugarcane-based HDPE containers include Danone Canada and Procter & Gamble (P&G). Danone Canada estimates that its conversion to sugarcane-based HDPE containers for DanActive, Danacol, Danino Go, and Activia drinkable yogurt will reduce its carbon footprint by 55%. "The packaging for Danone products accounts for 40% of our company's ecological footprint, and is the second most important factor in terms of emissions," notes Anne-Julie Maltais, manager of external communications for Danone Canada.

At P&G, switching to sugarcane-based HDPE bottles for Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion hair-care products will help meet sustainability goals. The global rollout begins in western Europe and should be completed by 2013. By 2020, the company plans to replace 25% of petroleum-based materials with sustainably sourced, renewable materials. Eventually, P&G intends to use only renewable or recycled materials for its products and packaging.

Hallie Forcinio is Pharmaceutical Technology's Packaging Forum editor, 4708 Morningside Drive, Cleveland, OH 44109, tel. 216.351.5824, fax 216.351.5684,


1. Visongain, "Sustainable & Green Packaging Market 2011–2021," (London, June 30, 2011).

2. DuPont, "Survey of Global Consumer Packaged Goods Manufacturers and Converters," (Wilmington, DE, May 2011).

3. "Global Production Capacity of Bioplastics," University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Hanover, Germany, 2011.


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