Unilever recently announced the launch of a research project with the University of Liverpool to develop biomass-based renewable chemicals such as surfactants and polymers for use in the manufacture of Unilever’s home and personal care product ranges.
The three-year project will involve using feedstock such as surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced from waste streams via commodity by-products and forestry wastes.The project is also partly funded by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Unilever and the University of Liverpool will jointly operate the new unit. AB Sugar is also a key project partner and will provide sugar beet residue from its refining process.
Well-known branded companies are sometimes the backbone of innovative chemicals developments as they can afford to pay the premium attached to these chemicals before they become more commoditized.
Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, Heinz, Nike and Procter & Gamble have teamed up last year to accelerate the development and use of 100% plant-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) materials and fiber in their products.
The companies formed a group called “Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC)” which will build up upon Coca-Cola’s success in its PlantBottle packaging technology.
PTC members said it is committed to developing commercial solutions for PET plastic made entirely from plants, and will aim to drive the development of common methodologies and standards for the use of plant-based plastic including life cycle analyses and universal terminology.
Without branded companies’ demand, 100% plant-based PET will not be able to survive its infancy stage if cheap petroleum-based PTA materials in Asia and cheap ethylene glycol from North America will deluge the global market. The backing and commitment of consumer branded companies through this collaboration is an assurance that they are ready to move the bioplastic industry forward even if it means losing margins in the near term.