46: Bioplastic bottles and bags


Much bioplastic uses sugar cane and molasses. But some reason that with a burgeoning global population, such vast plantations should be precision-farmed to provide food and that other sources should be used.


In 2008 a team lead by John A. Bissell and Makoto N. Masuno started up Micromidas (now Origin Materials) in West Sacramento, California to develop 95% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, made from waste biomass feedstocks, such as old corrugated cardboard (OCC), sawdust, and wood chips, that do not divert resources or land from food production for human or animal consumption.

Since non-food (“gen-2”) plant-based feedstocks do not compete with food production, Origin’s proprietary chemistry turned C-6 cellulose into four isolated building-block chemicals in one chemo-catalytic step, with almost zero carbon loss.

In March 2017 Origin joined with Danone and Nestlé Waters to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance. The consortium released a report claiming that they had successfully produced samples of 80% bio-based PET at pilot-scale.

In September 2018 beverage firm PepsiCo joined the NaturALL Bottle Alliance. Once construction is complete, the partners expect to produce 95% bio-based PET and subsequently achieve full commercial-scale.(

Another firm using tree cellulose is VPZ (Verpackung Zentrum) in Graz, Austria. Since the late 1990s the family enterprise of Helmut and Susanne Reininger has specialised in biogenic packaging made from alginsulate foam, biopolymers made from agricultural waste materials and net packaging made from cellulose natural fibres.

Packnatur®, their tear-resistant and wet-proof tubular netting first appeared on supermarket shelves in December 2012, when REWE first used it for their Ja! Natürlich products, such as organic fruit and vegetables.

The packaging has also been used by HOFER (the Austrian ALDI) for their “Zurück zum Ursprung” (Back to the Roots) and “Natur aktiv” ranges since June 2013. Since November 2017, the Packnatur cellulose netbag has been on the shelves of the Swiss Coop supermarket chain.

The main raw material is FSC-certified beech wood, which is a by-product of forest thinning in central Europe, and which is converted to cellulose fibres by Lenzing AG, using a CO₂-neutral process in line with the strictest environmental standards. In addition, the bags feature a wooden drawstring stopper, which is also made from beech wood and turned in a local workshop. (

VPZ have also developed organic labels in association with IM Polymer GmbH, Lenzing Plastics GmbH & Co. KG and the Vegetable Growers Association, Marchfeldgemüse.

They have avoided the use of the thermal paper, due to the controversy around bisphenol A. and have even thought about the print on the labels. The Packnatur® organic wineglass labels are printed for EAN-Code and batch identification using thermal transfer (carbon ribbon) printing.

Discover solution 47: plastic from thin air

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