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Danone Developing Bio-Based Bottles with Avantium

Danone, the global food and drinks manufacturer, has partnered with biotech company Avantium to produce bio-based plastic bottles made from renewable material that won’t threaten food resources.

Avantium, a spinoff from oil company Royal Dutch Shell, uses a chemical-catalytic technology called YXY to convert carbohydrates from grains, energy crops and other non-food sources, including waste paper and agricultural residues, into a variety of bio-based materials called furanics. These can then be used to produce polyethylene furanoate (PEF). The joint development agreement between Avantium and Danone’s research unit aims to further develop the YXY technology and, ultimately, to commercially produce bio-based PEF bottles.

The bio-sourced material delivers superior functional properties versus conventional oil-based PET technology, and PEF’s economics also make it a suitable PET alternative, Avantium said. A recent study by the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University found that PEF has a 50 percent to 60 percent lower carbon footprint than oil-based PET. Avantium and Danone plan to finalize the study together.

The announcement comes just a few months after Coca-Cola Company signed an agreement with Avantium to develop a plant-based PEF bottle.

Danone operates the world’s second-largest bottle business, a unit that saw sales increase 23 percent in the fourth quarter, fueling growth in its 2011 earnings, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The company has previously taken steps to reduce the cost and carbon footprint of its bottled water business. Last year, Danone’s Evian brand moved to a lighter bottle made of up to 50 percent recycled PET. The new 1.5 liter Evian bottle uses 11 percent less plastic and weighs 3.4 grams less than the previous design.

Avantium, which recently opened a pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands, has previously said it plans to begin commercial production of PEF in about three to four years. In its most recent announcement, the company said it is examining the existing supply and recycling chain, and has extended its commercial production timeline to between three and five years.

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