Industry News

Coca-Cola reveals plans to manufacture bottle tops out of captured carbon dioxide

by | Oct 17, 2023

Coca-Cola is currently one of the companies who uses the most plastic in the world, however now they have announced that they have a plan to reduce the amount of plastic involved in their products.

The firm has agreed to fund a three-year trial at Swansea University, which aligns with the company’s target of being net zero by 2040. The first stage that Coca-Cola is focusing on is switching what their current plastic packaging is manufactured out of. Until now the company has been making plastic for their packaging out of cheap fossil fuels, but they are planning to change this to manufacturing the plastic out of carbon captured from the air around their factories or from their own factory emissions. From this captured carbon, the company is planning to manufacture key ingredients for plastic which will become their bottle tops.

In order to make this process of producing plastic without fossil fuels possible, a technical scientific reaction must occur. Professor Andreoli, an industrial chemist, explained this process, saying, a little black electrode has a charge pass through a mix of carbon dioxide and water. This reaction results in the production of ethylene which is a necessary ingredient required in this particular plastic, as it allows it to be flexible, enabling it to be used in bottle tops. The company will test this reaction in the lab first to ensure it is successful, as they believe that once they have seen success it will be much easier to increase the size of this project and scale it up from there. This change in methods for ethylene production is also an eco-friendly advantage for the environment, as producing ethylene through the new method will eliminate the need to produce it as a cheap by-product of refining petrochemicals. The new technique will no longer require energy to heat the fossil fuels to extreme temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius in order to ‘crack’ off the molecules required to create plastic.

This switch will also be beneficial to the businesses carbon footprint as the previous process produced more than 260 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, which is equal to almost 1% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. This data was received from the climate tracking group, the Global Carbon Project. In order to reduce their carbon footprint, the director of Coca-Cola’s venturing division for Europe and the Pacific, Craig Twyford said that one of the best ways the company will reduce their carbon footprint is through using more recycled plastics. By doing this and sticking to their plan, the company aims to reach their aim of a 30% reduction in their carbon footprint by 2030.

The project’s principal investigator, Professor Enrico Andreoli, commented, “The plastic we make today releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the environment. Our starting material is carbon dioxide, so we entirely de-fossilise the process and make plastic free from fossil fuels and fossil carbon.”

Andreoli continued, “From 2030 to 2040 we need to start making the more radical bets… looking at lots of different technologies. If the human race starts drawing down CO2 in large quantities, what useful things can we do with it? We could potentially use it to carbonate our drinks. Or, we could use it – as we are with Swansea – to make some of our packaging.”

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