Single-use plastic soda and water bottles are a real problem. Every year, billions of them are produced – comprising nearly 300 million tons of plastic that mostly ends up in landfills or in the ocean. This discarded plastic ends up on remote islands, in the snow atop mountains, and in trenches in the deepest parts of ocean.
There has been increasing pressure on beverage companies to put an end to this environmental disaster, but the convenience and economy of disposable bottles is just too attractive.
These bottles are made of plastic derived from oil and once they are produced, they take decades or even centuries to decompose. Recycling them is a not-starter because it is cheaper to just make new ones.
A possible solution has emerged. A Dutch company called Avantium has found a way to take plant sugars and transform them into a plastic capable of standing up to carbonated beverages like soda and beer but that will also break down in as little as a year in a composter or 3 years if left exposed to the elements.
Coca Cola and Carlsberg are working with Avantium to develop new drink packaging based on their material that could be in stores as soon as 2023. The new packaging would be quite different from what we use today. Instead of a clear or tinted bottle, beverages would come inside a cardboard container with a liner made of plant-based plastic.
It may take a while for people to get used to the change, but we have already managed to get used to milk, juice and other liquids coming in cardboard containers instead of glass or plastic bottles. The benefits to the planet would make the effort well worthwhile.
Photo courtesy of Avantium.