Coca-Cola, UPM and Changchun Meihe Science & Technology launch bMEG

October 18, 2021 |

In Georgia, the Coca-Cola Company, Changchun Meihe Science & Technology and UPM announced the first planned commercialization of technologies to efficiently convert second-generation biomass to plant-based monoethylene glycol (bMEG).

This next-generation technology marks a significant step forward toward commercializing a process that is not only more efficient than current bMEG technologies but is based on feedstock that cannot be used as source of food: hardwood taken from sawmill side-streams and forest thinnings as part of sustainable forest management. Monoethylene glycol (MEG) is one of the major components in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used for plastic beverage bottles. The new technology marks the most significant advancement in the commercial viability of bioplastics since The Coca-Cola Company introduced the first-generation technology in its PlantBottle™ packaging in 2009.

Co-owned and co-developed by Coca-Cola and Changchun Meihe, and now being scaled to commercial quantities by the Finnish forest-based bioeconomy leader UPM, the technology to produce bMEG takes a sugar source and removes the step of creating ethanol as part of the conversion process to produce plant-based MEG. This means the process is simpler than incumbent processes and provides flexibility in feedstock choice.

First validated at demonstration scale in 2017, this combination of technologies will power a full-scale biorefinery currently being constructed by UPM in Leuna, Germany. This first-of-its kind biorefinery will produce plant-based monoethylene glycol (bMEG), plant-based monopropylene glycol (bMPG), as well as lignin-based Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF) made from 100% certified hardwood taken from sawmill and other wood industry side-streams. UPM’s investment will enable a shift from fossil raw materials to renewable alternatives in a large number of consumer end uses. The biorefinery will ramp up production in 2023 with a total annual capacity of 220,000 tonnes.  The products will have a significantly improved CO2 footprint and can be seamlessly integrated in existing material recovery and recycling streams while meeting product performance requirements.

Further to The Coca-Cola Company’s earlier announcement that it will be making its PlantBottle™ technology available to others in the industry, the two companies announced that UPM will be offering commercial quantities of these breakthrough biochemicals to anyone in the industry, including direct competitors to Coca-Cola.

The commercialization of this technology marks a significant milestone not only in the evolution of renewable glycol production but also more widely in the development of fossil fuel-free PET plastic. MEG is one of two molecules necessary to create PET, the other being terephthalic acid (PTA). Investments in the scaling of plant-based, renewable materials like bMEG support Coca-Cola’s ambition and work to reduce the use of virgin oil-based plastics in its packaging, alongside investments to increase the use of recycled content.

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Category: Fuels

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