Biochemical technology company Avantium is on a roll. It has announced that it has signed a conditional agreement with a number of companies for the supply of PEF resin from a planned Avantium FDCA flagship plant.
The company has also successfully produced polyesters with its plantMEG from its Ray Technology demonstration plant. With the Ray Technology, Avantium can produce mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) from plant-based feedstocks rather than fossil sources: plantMEG.
Currently, MEG is widely used as an important chemical building block for plastic bottles and packaging, polyester textiles for clothing and furniture.
The planned FDCA flagship plant is set to produce 5 kilotonnes of FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid) per annum, a key building block for the 100% fossil-free, recyclable polymer PEF (polyethylene furanoate).
Avantium previously announced that contracts were signed with specialty chemical company Toyobo (Japan), specialty polyester film producer Terphane (US), the beverage bottling company Refresco (Netherlands), and an undisclosed major global food & beverage brand owner. Avantium is also collaborating with Carlsberg in the development of PEF based packaging of beer, such as the Green Fibre Bottle.
PEF offers a number of important advantages over the PET currently used for food and drink packaging. PEF could replace PET in typical applications like films, fibres and in particular bottles for the packaging of soft drinks, water, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices food and non-food products.
PEF will be broadly introduced to the international market for high-value applications varying from monolayer bottles, multilayer bottles and polyester film products.
In multilayer bottles, PEF can be used as a barrier material in multilayer PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, leading to improved sustainability and recyclability compared to multilayer bottles with other barrier materials.
These are significant developments as Avantium’s research has proven that PEF bottles outperform PET bottles in many areas, particularly barrier properties (the ability of the polymer to withstand gas permeability through the bottle). PEF’s ability to seal out oxygen, for example, results in longer-lasting carbonated drinks and extended shelf life.
Who doesn’t want thinner bottles or packaging? Companies producing packaging materials such as beverage cans, glass beer bottles, or aluminium wrappers will have to watch out.
Avantium has also demonstrated that PEF can be recycled in very similar ways to PET recycling.
Once PEF is produced in larger volumes it is likely it may become economically more attractive to separately recycle PEF. Avantium is currently working with brand owners and the recycling industry to establish a PEF to PEF recycling infrastructure in the future.
If people are willing to pay a green premium then we could see a next generation packaging material in many product categories where superior barrier qualities are needed.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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