Coca-Cola, a global leader in the beverage industry and one of the world’s biggest plastic consumers, appears to be embarking on an endeavor to revolutionize its plastic bottle tops. On October 16, the company revealed plans to make these bottle tops using carbon dioxide.
The idea is to capture the carbon dioxide — either from the air or factory emissions — and use it to make one key ingredient for plastic.
Professor Enrico Andreoli, the project’s main investigator and an esteemed industrial chemist, highlighted the significant environmental impact of traditional plastic manufacturing, which releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Our starting material is carbon dioxide, so we entirely de-fossilise the process and make plastic-free from fossil fuels and fossil carbon,” he said. “We want to prove the technology in the laboratory works.”
How does it work?
The process involves using a small black electrode, where an electric charge is passed through a mixture of CO2 and water, resulting in the creation of ethylene.
Ethylene, a crucial ingredient in the flexible plastic used for bottle tops, is currently produced as a by-product of refining petrochemicals obtained by heating fossil fuels at very high temperatures (800°C).
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According to the Global Carbon Project, in 2020 this process generated over 260 million tonnes of CO2, which represents almost 1% of the world’s total CO2 emissions.
Most of the carbon footprint reduction needed to meet Coca-Cola’s 2030 goal — of slashing CO2 emissions by 30% — will be a result of using recycled plastics, the company’s venturing division head for Europe and the Pacific Craig Twyford said.
Last year, Coca-Cola embarked on another similar project, funding University of California, Berkeley research to convert carbon dioxide into artificial sugar using artificial photosynthesis.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Coca-Cola plastic bottle tops. Featured Photo Credit: Rawpixel.