PepsiCo, makers of geek favorite Mountain Dew, is set to deploy bottles made entirely of plant materials in 2012.
Not to get all green on you, but the human race consumes a lot of soda. The resultant waste from millions of plastic bottles fills up landfills and is generally a self-defeating practice that furthers our dependence on fossil fuels because most plastic is petroleum-based. Food manufacturers have experimented with different ways to reduce waste or devise a commercially viable way to create plastic from plants instead of oil, but research has stymied at only using about 30 percent bio-plastic. Pepsi announced that it has finally “cracked the code” and will begin using bottles derived from 100 percent excess plant material – switch grass, pine bark, corn husks, orange peels, oat hulls, and potato scraps. The plan is to produce a few hundred thousand bottles as a test run this year before going full plant-plastic with over a billion bottles sold each year.
Rocco Papalia, an advanced researcher from Pepsi who spent years on the project, said that the bottles made from plants are just like ones you’d find in stores now. “It’s a beautiful thing to behold. It’s indistinguishable,” he said.
Independent scientists are chiming in with what they believe is a packaging revolution. “This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics,” said Allen Hershkowitz from the Natural Resources Defence Council. “When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond.”
Pepsi is certainly using the opportunity to slap Coca-Cola in the face with its discovery. Coke, Pepsi’s much larger competitor, recently stated that its research was several years away from a 100 percent bioplastic bottle.
While its a step in the right direction for companies to begin using excess plant materials instead of oil to make plastic, these new bottles are not biodegradeable. Not all bioplastics break down naturally, whether from microbes or exposure to oxygen and sunlight. Pepsi’s new bottle is just as environmentally durable as petroleum-based platics, but it can be recycled. We still have a long way to go before our landfills become less clogged with the refuse of human existence, but at least I won’t feel as terribly guilty popping open a bottle of that sweet caffeine elixir, Mountain Dew.