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New battleground in beverage wars: sustainable packaging

New battleground in beverage wars: sustainable packaging

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PepsiCo plans a 100-percent recyclable bottle made from agricultural byproducts source from the food side of its business.

Not to be outdone by its arch-rival, The Coca-Cola Co., beverage giant PepsiCo has developed a "green" bottle that is designed to be recyclable AND that is made from plant-sourced materials including switch grass, orange peels and potato peels. Actually, the agricultural materials that will go into these bottles are byproducts from its foods business, which is an added bonus.

The bottle will hit store shelves in a pilot phase in 2012.

In the press materials announcing the new bottle, Conrad MacKerron, the senior program director of San Francisco-based environmental foundation As You Sow, said:

"By reducing reliance on petroleum-based materials and using its own agricultural scraps as feedstocks for new bottles, this advancement should deliver a double win for the environment and PepsiCo."

The new bottle will use the bio-based materials to reproduce the molecular structure that is used in petroleum-based polyethylene terephthalate (aka PET), which is commonly used for beverage containers.

This isn't the first innovative thing that PepsiCo has done with packaging. Several of its product lines, including Aquafina and Naked Juice, have already transitioned into packaging that is more environmentally sensitive the straight PET. Naked Juice products, for example, are transitioning to bottles that are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic.

And you've doubtless heard the flap over the SunChips packaging, which is now a fully compostable bag. The brand just restarted that effort in the United States, after too many consumers complained about the noise that the bags made.

The real target of the new PepsiCo bottle, of course, is the Coca-Cola PlantBottle, which was recently licensed by Heinz to replace its classic ketchup bottle. After PepsiCo gets the bottle on shelves with its own products, I wouldn't be surprise to see it move to license the technology to other consumer products companies.

Packaging definitely is a big deal for the major consumer products companies, but there is still much to be done along the lines of consumer education. I wonder how many SunChips bags, for example, are still being thrown into the trash.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure