LONDON — December 6, 2013 Renmatix and Virent announced a strategic collaboration to convert affordable cellulosic sugars to renewable chemicals and bio-based packaging materials. Under the terms of the multi-phase development project, Renmatix’s Plantrose™ platform will be evaluated and potentially optimized to provide an affordable sugar stream for Virent’s Bioforming® process for the large-scale production of bio-based paraxylene. Paraxylene is a basic raw material used in the manufacture of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), an important chemical in the production of plastic bottles and fibers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Integrating local feedstock processing with on-site commercial production will lower costs and increase the viability of using renewable chemicals in bio-based packaging and plastics for industrial and consumer goods.
Renmatix’s Plantrose™ process produces affordable cellulosic sugars as the bridge between upstream biomass and downstream plant-based chemicals. An alternative to current petro-based materials, Renmatix’s C5 (xylose) and C6 (glucose) Plantro® sugars are produced by an advanced water- based method known as supercritical hydrolysis. In lieu of more expensive chemical and enzymatic routes to cellulosic sugar that are also currently being investigated and developed by other firms, Plantrose leverages supercritical hydrolysis to economically convert a range of renewable global feedstocks into the bio-based building blocks that can be used in everyday products like paints, diapers, laundry detergent, or bottles and other types of plastic packaging.
Virent’s bio-based paraxylene product, trademarked BioFormPX™, won this year’s ICIS award for Best Innovation for Sustainability. Virent’s BioFormPX is chemically identical to paraxylene made from petroleum and allows manufacturers to offer customers 100% bio-based PET packaging, fibers and films. Virent and The Coca-Cola Company entered into a strategic partnership in 2011 to accelerate the commercialization of 100% renewable, recyclable PlantBottle® packaging.
“Our focus is on helping to advance breakthrough bio-plastic technologies we believe can be scaled and sustained,” said Scott Vitters, General Manager, PlantBottle Packaging Innovation Platform, The Coca-Cola Company. “The potential of combining Renmatix’s innovative cellulosic feedstock technology with Virent’s bio-based paraxylene process offers a promising pathway for further realizing our PlantBottle packaging goals.”
Right now, Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle is made from sugarcane ethanol-based monoethylene glycol or MEG (the other component of PET) and petro-based PTA. Bio-based MEG has an average 40% premium, according to Tecnon OrbiChem’s Bio-Materials report. It will be difficult for Coca-Cola (and for those of Coca-Cola’s partners who are working towards bio-based PTA or other alternatives) to absorb more bio-based premiums in order to manufacture a 100% bio-based PET bottle. Coca-Cola’s partners have to think about sourcing lower feedstock costs at this early stage to be able to satisfy Coca-Cola’s sustainability demands. And this is where cellulosic sugar are likely to play a critical role. In addition to being a non-food feedstock they are expected to trade at a 30-40% discount versus the traditional commercial sugars being traded in the market.