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Pepsi Moving To Bottles Made of Plant Material 321

Posted by samzenpus
from the dew-in-the-corn dept.
Master Moose writes "Pepsi unveiled a new bottle yesterday made entirely of plant material. The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business. 'This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics,' said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council and director of its waste management project. 'When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond.'"
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Pepsi Moving To Bottles Made of Plant Material

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  • How about glass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ron_ivi (607351) <.moc.secivedxelpmocpaehc. .ta. .ontods.> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:56PM (#35509820)

    A quite renewable resource; recycles well; doesn't make your drink smell like a chemical factory over time.

    I hope after these biodegradable plastic-like-plant-chemicals (that'll probably leech into your soft drink when/if the bottle gets warm), they consider glass as a material for soft drink bottle containers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wampus (1932)

      Glass is heavy and fragile and bulky and I would bet uses more energy to produce and to recycle than PET. Nothing is going to leach that isn't already. PET is PET. It's the same chemical produced from a different feedstock.

      • Don't recycle it, wash and re-use it.

        • My father-in-law used to run a Coca-cola plant. They went away from glass bottles because of the automated process that fills them.

          Glass bottles not only have to be collected from the stores (instead of getting a regular shipment from the plastic factory), they also tend to acquire chips and scratches. So they have to be inspected.

          But sometimes those ships are hard to see, or just structurally weak without any visible sign, and they break when they go through the automatic filling/capping machine. And then

    • Re:How about glass (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Timmmm (636430) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:06PM (#35509912)

      In Africa (Kenya and Uganda at least; I've not been elsewhere), all soft drinks are sold in glass bottles. They are also reused (i.e. you refill them with drink) rather than recycled. Although for some reason the only options are fanta and coke. Coke I can understand, but fanta? Never made any sense to me...

      • Fanta is made by Coke. Coke is available in all these places. Hence, so is Fanta.
        • by Timmmm (636430)

          Yeah but Coca Cola make quite a bit more than Coke and Fanta, so that doesn't really explain anything:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Coca-Cola_brands [wikipedia.org]

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Best one being Mezzo-Mix. I finally found some in the states, sucks to pay $2 for a 300ml can though.

          • by kramerd (1227006)

            In parts of Africa, coke is not an everyday drink. It is very expensive (relatively), and used for special occasions or tourists. There is not enough of a market to sell 30 kinds of soft drinks, so they have 3 (maybe 4 in some places if they include dimpled sprite) choices; flavored fanta drinks, and regular coke (the one made with real sugar). All of these are easily distinguishable by color (beneficial for those who can't read, for example).

            Coke started a campaign to make coke available anywhere in the wo

      • by Kozz (7764) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:32PM (#35510178)

        In Africa (Kenya and Uganda at least; I've not been elsewhere), all soft drinks are sold in glass bottles. They are also reused (i.e. you refill them with drink) rather than recycled. Although for some reason the only options are fanta and coke. Coke I can understand, but fanta? Never made any sense to me...

        Agreed. Seriously, the gods must be crazy.

        • by skids (119237)

          Hah! The younguns won't get that joke -- they watched the other movie of the same name instead. It had no falling coke bottle scene IIRC.

      • Although for some reason the only options are fanta and coke.

        This reminds me of the late USSR of my childhood, where those two were also the only options aside from local drinks (and were seen as something immensely cool).

    • Glass is heavy. Glass can break. Glass is more expensive.
    • by hipp5 (1635263)

      A quite renewable resource; recycles well;

      Glass isn't that great for recycling. IIRC from my National Geographic issue a few years ago, recycled glass only uses 5% less energy to make than new glass. Compare that to aluminum where the recycled product uses 95% less energy to produce than from virgin materials. If you're looking to have a highly-recyclable product then aluminum is the way to go. Where glass is good is when you're reusing, but that brings up a whole question of logistics. Glass also has the issue of shipping weight and broken bottle

      • Re:How about glass (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:02PM (#35510494)

        recycled glass only uses 5% less energy to make than new glass. Compare that to aluminum where the recycled product uses 95% less energy to produce than from virgin materials. If you're looking to have a highly-recyclable product then aluminum is the way to go.

        That's the wrong stat to be looking at. Recycled aluminum uses much less energy than producing new aluminum because aluminum production requires huge amounts of energy. So aluminum may only require 5% of its creation energy to recycle, but that's 5% of a huge number. Glass' 95% to recycle is 95% of a small number.

        You want to be comparing the raw amount of energy needed to recycle. How many joules for a glass bottle, how many joules for an aluminum can.

      • That percentage doesnt mean much. How much energy does it take to recycle aluminum? How much energy does it take to recycle glass? If the former is more than the latter, the fact that its "only 5%" is irrelevant.

        • by hipp5 (1635263)

          That percentage doesnt mean much. How much energy does it take to recycle aluminum? How much energy does it take to recycle glass? If the former is more than the latter, the fact that its "only 5%" is irrelevant.

          Very good point. I just did some quick Googling (apparently recycled glass requires only 66% of the energy as virgin glass - I was wrong on that one) and haven't been able to find a straight answer. That being said, I found a few recycling facts websites (who knows if they are reliable sources) such as this [headwatersrecycle.com] one that give numerical values for the energy saved by recycling (although you have to convert from light bulb usage for actual numbers). If these sources can be trusted it suggests that an aluminum can

    • by Reilaos (1544173)

      Glass is heavy -- means higher transportation costs, higher damages to the envireonment thereof.
      Glass is nonbiodegradeable -- Good recycling, bad for the more likely event that it just gets thrown away, or dumped on the side of the street

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Glass is nonbiodegradeable

        Glass degrades by the same process as stone. It will, over time, be worn down. More importantly, it is chemically neutral in nature and not easily mistaken for food.

        Whereas plastic just stays in the same form constantly and is mistaken for food, or left out in the ocean will break down into smaller and smaller pieces and be mistaken for plankton, killing the animals that try to eat it.

    • I hope after these biodegradable plastic-like-plant-chemicals (that'll probably leech into your soft drink when/if the bottle gets warm)...

      Or leaches in when the soda just sits there being acidic at any temperature, or when it hits the inside wall with bubble cavitation shock waves once the pressure is released to drink it.

      My hope is that the materials chosen don't set off anybody's allergies. (For instance: I'm allergic to corn. Do I need to switch soda brands or risk anaphylaxis?)

  • Disposal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:57PM (#35509826) Homepage

    How do we dispose of them? Are they as recyclable as petroleum-based plastics?

    Also, are they biodegradable?

    • Re:Disposal (Score:5, Informative)

      by RapmasterT (787426) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:03PM (#35509892)
      Same as before. Yes. No.

      The plastic is the same as it always was, the source material is all that's different. This is better marketing through sounds/feels good science, not through environmentalism. Hell, these bottles are going to use an order of magnitude more energy and other resources to produce than the old fashioned kind, so...yay?
      • Darn, and I was hoping that taking plastics out of the buyers' market for petroleum would reduce demand and lower prices. Why do so many green solutions seem to reduce efficiency and increase energy usage when the end-to-end cycle is considered?
        • Why do so many green solutions seem to reduce efficiency and increase energy usage when the end-to-end cycle is considered? --

          Because the old way of doing things never measures the full end to end cost.

          If you want to measure the full cost of production of a petroleum sourced PET bottle, you need to take into account the initial production of biomass and then at least a couple of hundred thousand years of high pressure cellaring. When you look at it like that, the green solutions look cheap,

        • by timeOday (582209)

          Why do so many green solutions seem to reduce efficiency and increase energy usage when the end-to-end cycle is considered?

          Largely because of naysayers who distort facts [thetorquereport.com] as necessary to reach that conclusion, or simply assume it to be the case with or without any evidence, such as the post you replied to. ("Order of magnitude" does have an actual definition.)

          • Largely because of naysayers who distort facts as necessary to reach that conclusion, or simply assume it to be the case with or without any evidence, such as the post you replied to. ("Order of magnitude" does have an actual definition.)

            Yeah, I'm reflexively skeptical about extravagant energy-saving claims when I hear them, but I agree, the article you referenced reads more like a press release than a study from the beginning. It gets really clear when you get to this part:

            In a study by CNW Marketing called "Dust to Dust", researchers discovered that the Prius costs and average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles (the expected lifespan of a hybrid). On the other hand the Hummer costs $1.95 per mile over an expected 300,000 miles.

            Ok, some glaring red flags there: 1) "a study by CNW Marketing" (nuff said), and 2) expected Prius lifespan of 100k miles vs. 300k for a Hummer... really? Hummers come with a 5/100,000 powertrain warranty. Priuses come with a 5/60,000 powertrain and a 96/100k hybrid syst

    • by inpher (1788434)

      They are as recyclable as any other PET bottle because they are made from PET. Dispose of them like you normally do.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Also, are they biodegradable?

      Biodegradeable doesn't always mean what we think it means.
      A lot of stuff we put in garbage dumps can remain perfectly preserved for a hundred years.
      The question is not "is the bottle biodegradeable" but "will it biodegrade without sunlight or oxygen"

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:16PM (#35510014)

      How do we dispose of them? Are they as recyclable as petroleum-based plastics? Also, are they biodegradable?

      According to the article: "Pepsi says it is the world's first bottle of a common type of plastic called PET made entirely of plant materials." PET, Polyethylene terephthalate [wikipedia.org], made from petroleum or from food waste is still the same molecule. It should perform the same regardless of what it is made from.

    • by slapout (93640)

      That problem solves itself -- no one actually drinks Pepsi.

  • The source of the original material is just one part of the equation. Just as important to anybody who cares about the environment is how efficiently the product can be recycled, and whether or not it biodegrades at a reasonable rate. The article mentions neither, and so I'll ask here. Is Pepsi's new bottle as good or better than existing plastics in this area, or are we improving in one area for either marketing and financial reasons, at the detriment of others that are equally important?
  • by RapmasterT (787426)
    Trading plastic bottles made from petroleum for plastic bottles made from FOOD isn't much of a win. The end product is the EXACT SAME PLASTIC that we're filling up landfills with right now, just made from food sources. Well done Pepsi...you missed the point entirely, but I'm confident you can still spin it into a positive to the organic/vegan/hippie crowd.
    • by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:06PM (#35509918)
      No, this is still a major improvement. Less oil usage is good. Less food waste in landfills is good. Less dependency on foreign oil is good, at least for the US's economy. Hell, just because of that, you get minor reductions in income, and thus political power, to a variety of less-than-wholesome Middle-East countries. Major? No. A step forward? Hells yes.

      Besides, in case you hadn't noticed, plastic is recyclable. I've got an empty bottle of Mt. Dew sitting beside me - it's going into the recycle bin literally as soon as I finish typing this. No landfill usage at all.
      • Less oil usage is good.

        Is this true? The less oil that goes into plastics, the cheaper it becomes, and the longer it will take for economic pressures to force the world into a renewable electric-based regime. What's more, more of that oil will be refined and burned, rather than processed into plastics and buried.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          this is almost a jevons paradox.

          still, plastic amounts to only 5% of petroleum usage (in US). once plastic has enough relative petroleum-share to really matter, we'll probably be well on our way to alternative fuels as well.

        • Excellent example that proves my point!

        • See, I KNEW I was helping win the environmental battle by NOT recycling ANYTHING. The faster we run out of it the faster we can't pollute the environment with it. It all makes perfect sense now. Thank you for opening my eyes.

      • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:33PM (#35510186)

        No, this is still a major improvement. Less oil usage is good. Less food waste in landfills is good. Less dependency on foreign oil is good, at least for the US's economy.

        Are you sure about that? How much more energy is it going to take to make these? If it's more, then where is that energy coming from? Are the raw materials heavier to transport than the current ones? What waste by-products are produced in doing this? What can be done with those by-products?

        I don't know the answers to any of these questions. Before you make statements like you did, you may want to look into these, and many other questions first. The end result may be that they use even more petroleum products than the current containers. Or create toxic leftovers in the process.

        Are you old enough to remember the styrofoam clam-shells McDonalds sandwiches were served in? Those were just "evil" according to environmentalists. Except they kept you food warmer and could be recycled into all kinds of things. But they were replaced by wax coated paper that could not be recycled. The environmentalists were happier with the paper that could go nowhere other than a landfill and the food is not only crappy, but gets cold even sooner.

        • by mattack2 (1165421) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:26PM (#35510684)

          Are you old enough to remember the styrofoam clam-shells McDonalds sandwiches were served in? Those were just "evil" according to environmentalists. Except they kept you food warmer and could be recycled into all kinds of things.

          [citation needed]

          Styrofoam (which actually is AFAIK not technically what these were, and I don't mean brand-name-wise, but it's what people call that kind of foam) seems to be one of the HARDER things to recycle.. and food contaminated products (except for bottles & cans) seems to not be recyclable either.

          While it's not foam, even pizza boxes for example can't be recycled because they're food contaminated.

          (I've largely stopped buying TV dinners since I can't recycle the plastic trays.)

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            That stuff can be recycled in a manner of speaking, thermal depolymerization would be the method. This can take all of the above mentioned items and make useful hydrocarbons out of them. We just choose not to do this as it is cheaper to pump oil out of the ground.

        • Are you old enough to remember the styrofoam clam-shells McDonalds sandwiches were served in? Those were just "evil" according to environmentalists. Except they kept you food warmer and could be recycled into all kinds of things.

          Polystyrene foams are very expensive to recycle [wikipedia.org] and at least at the time of the McDonald's phase out were manufactured using CFCs, contributing to Ozone depletion.

          Reading you're post, I'd say that you're not old enough to remember when styrofoam was in widespread use (or that you're a fucking idiot, or both.)

        • by Chryana (708485)

          Virtually nobody recycles styrofoam, which makes it pretty much the same is if it could not be recycled. The reason is that it takes a huge amount of space for its weight so it is expensive to carry. I agree that styrofoam keeps your food warmer, but it is not greener than wax paper.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        Less oil use is good, but using organic sources means encouraging the cultivation of those plants instead of others. Plowing under a diverse ecosystem to plant many acres of nothing but switchgrass or trash paper pine is still a negative consequence. Using corn husks is good, but we already have reductions in corn being used for food so that more can be used as an Ethanol source, and the world needs food as well as less oil dependency. The full array of consequences is always going to be mixed at best. Ult

      • by bloodhawk (813939)
        food in landfills breaks down farely rapidly, plastic does not. They are turning a biodegradable product into a non biodegradable product. While it is a step up from using oil, it is also a step backwards for landfills etc.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          HAHA, who fed you that line of crap?

          Nothing in a modern landfill breaks down rapidly. You see for that to happen you need oxygen and low soil/media compaction. Guess what? Modern landfills are highly compacted and pretty much oxygen free.

          What they are doing is preventing something from going into the landfill in the first place and converting it into a recyclable product.

    • No it isn't, stop being a putz. They solved *half* the total problem, which is a hell of a lot more than you did. Using food waste is a HUGE improvement over petroleum. And PET containers are imminently recyclable, and the entire idea is PRACTICAL and economically feasible, which puts it far ahead of the game from most foolishly impractical eco-nut ideas.

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        "foolishly impractical ... ideas."

        This *is* /., where foolishly impractical will be on the desktop next year, for sure, this time.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      could be helpful in the long run. since plastics account for ~5% of petroleum consumption, the market is driven by petroleum-as-fuel. once the market responds to that, there may be very little left for plastics. there are fuel alternatives in development, so it should be just as important to develop alternative feedstocks for plastic (something we're, at least, behind in, leaving aside whether it is even possible in all cases).

    • The base resource the new bottles are made from is waste they previously paid to throw away, now it's useful and customers pay to take it away. That's a win. It also reduces the effects of higher oil prices, as they don't use it (as much) anymore.
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Is it FOOD or is it food-waste? If it's stuff that would be thrown away otherwise (and not fed to animals perhaps), then I still think it would be 'less bad' than oil-based plastics.. and yes, I did see other responses already denying it would be good to use less oil for this purpose.

    • by skids (119237)

      Food? Dude. Go tell mom to stop serving you leftover "orange peels, oat hulls, and potato scraps" for dinner.

       

  • Until they find out that this wonderfully Wonka-worthy craze-tastic compostable compound is biodegradable in anything... including soda pop!

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      or they find out bacteria find the containers tasty and that raises leaking issues at the best and food poisoning fatalities at the worst.
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      The chemical the bottles are made out of is PET. I think they have some experience with the characteristics of PET.

  • Now that the bottles are fully biodegradable, will people have no guilt about tossing them everywhere knowing they will biodegrade? Sounds like it will just generate more litter.
    • by proverbialcow (177020) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:10PM (#35509954) Journal
      Biodegradable since when? They're just weaning themselves off petroleum; the end product is exactly the same.
    • The kind of person who litters is hardly likely to look at closely at the composition of the packaging before tossing it over their shoulder. Littering is an act of thoughtlessness, not a carefully considered risk management assessment.

      I saw this same argument when they introduced biodegradable plastic bags at supermarkets in my area. The streets were going to be awash with bags. Guess what? It made no difference at all.

  • hmm... i wonder when North American corn production will improve to the point where we can ACTUALLY EAT IT?

    not being an oil industry fanboy or anything, but using potentially viable food to package sugarwater seems a little... myopic.

  • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:24PM (#35510108) Journal

    Sounds like the bottle is more suitable for human consumption than its contents.

  • Corn syrup on the inside, corn husks on the outside.

    Might as well skip the middle man and just go pick some corn at the nearest farm.

  • Now that's biodegradable!

    I want my clay Pepsi!

  • Advocates say the change could substantially improve the flavor of PepsiCo soft drinks.
  • Japan has been using these for years. In fact, while we usually call our bottles "24 oz. bottles", they call their standard 500 ml bottles "PET bottles" (of course due to the fact that they're made of PET plastic). From what I understand (little), they're also 100% recyclable like aluminum.

  • We shouldn't even be using bottles and cans for soft drinks. A fountain drink machine that dispenses the soda into paper cups would be a better solution.That is, the convenient places to get a soft drink like a pizza shop or convenience store have the space to just as easily install a fountain drink/ice dispenser for the drinks then they do the refrigerators for the drinks. Environment advantage would go to the fountain drink machine. Bottles and cans is purely a marketing decision to take up shelf space. T

  • Except I suggested they make their plants out of used bottles.
  • Crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @09:50PM (#35511324)
    Five hundred years from now, archeologists are going to dig through the remnants of our civilization and try to figure out why we started planting millions of acres of switch grass and pine trees instead of proper food.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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