Why Companies Are Replacing Plastic With Plant-Based Packaging

The fossil fuel industry is looking for ways to stick around in the coming years and an increase in plastic production could have the biggest demand for oil.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

With the renewable energy industry continuing to grow, oil companies have been looking at other ways to stay afloat in the future. They’re expected to lean more toward plastic production as buildings and vehicles transition toward sustainable sources. However, the fossil fuel industry’s reliance on creating plastics could also be dampened thanks to a number of companies moving toward the use of bioplastics.

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By the time we reach 2040, the International Energy Agency believes most of the demand for oil will be toward petrochemicals. Ethylene and propylene, which accounts for 70 percent of all petrochemicals, are used to create plastics. There will still be some demand for it with road freight trucks, aviation, and shipping, but ultimately these fossil fuels will be used to meet growing demands for plastic.

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Companies that distribute these plastics, like Coca-Cola, are looking at further use of bioplastic material made from plants. The European Bioplastics Association (EBA) believes that this industry, which is also created with sugar cane, wood, and corn, will boost by 50 percent in the next five years. Demand from companies like Coke and Lego have recently grown as they’ve instituted plans to change their packaging.

Coca-Cola hopes to expand on their PlantBottle packaging that was introduced in 2012. 30 percent of their plastic bottles are made from plants, which replaces monoethylene glycol. That substance makes up 30 percent of a traditional polyethylene terephthalate plastic bottle. Back in 2015, the unveiled the first PlantBottles that were fully made from plants. Other companies, like Lego, are researching into using plants for their blocks.

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“Attitudes are evolving,” David Eyton, the head of technology at BP, told Bloomberg. “The question that faces the petrochemicals industry that has yet to really be answered is, ‘How are people going to deal with some of the environmental impacts of petrochemicals? Particularly plastics, which are a growing concern.’”

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Plastic consumption has become a worrying trend for the environment. Even though it’s an ideal product to recycle, over 90 percent of all plastic that’s created goes into the trash. This has led to organizations promoting the reduction of single-use plastic items like disposable water bottles, straws, and cups.

Awareness of plastic trash clogging our oceans is on the rise, but attempting to create a different plastic altogether may be a perfect solution. They have the potential to degrade after use and are far less harmful to the environment. However, the EBA notes that bioplastics make up just one percent of the entire plastic industry. In order for that to change, more companies have to increase their demand like Coke and Lego.

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