Mitsubishi Corporation has collaborated with Suntory Holdings and ENEOS Corporation to develop a supply chain for sustainable PET plastic bottles made from biomass. This partnership aims to address the challenges of carbon emissions and plastic pollution, making a significant contribution towards sustainability. The Japanese conglomerate believes that using biomass, such as used cooking oil, to produce PET bottles can reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote a low-carbon economy. This initiative marks the world’s first commercial-scale production of sustainable PET bottles using bio-PX (paraxylene) from bio-naphtha.
Traditional plastic bottle production relies on naphtha, a flammable liquid derived from distilling petroleum. However, this process contributes to significant greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, each ounce of PET produced emits approximately 1 ounce of carbon dioxide, and some estimates suggest a ratio of up to 5:1 for carbon emissions to plastic production. The higher the ratio, the greater the pollution caused by production. The new initiative aims to address this issue by replacing fossil naphtha with renewable sources. The partner companies will establish a new supply chain to produce sustainable PET bottles and reduce the industry’s carbon emissions.
Mitsubishi will oversee the supply chain, which begins with NESTE Corporation supplying bio-based naphtha derived from 100% renewable sources. The process involves NESTE producing and supplying the bio-based raw material (feedstock), bio-naphtha, from biomass such as waste and used cooking oil. ENEOS then produces bio-PX from bio-naphtha at the Mizushima Refinery, which serves as a raw material for making bio-PTA and bio-PET resin. Finally, Suntory utilizes the bio-PET resin to produce sustainable PET bottles for its products.
ENEOS uses the mass balance method to produce bio-PX from bio-naphtha. This approach tracks the amount and sustainability characteristics of biomass. By the end of 2023, approximately 35 million PET bottles will be produced from biomass using this new approach. Suntory plans to use these bottles to create sustainable PET bottle products in 2024. Through this supply chain management, Mitsubishi aims to contribute to carbon emissions reduction by replacing petroleum-based products with bio-PET resin derived from biomass. Mitsubishi emphasized the importance of using biomass for PET bottles and developing recycling systems to achieve a low-carbon, decarbonized society and reduce dependency on fossil resources.
As the leading company in this project, Mitsubishi and its partners will be eligible to generate plastic credits and earn from them. Plastic credits are certificates representing one metric tonne of recycled or collected plastic waste. They function similarly to carbon credits and serve as a market-based tool to combat global plastic pollution. Plastics made from fossil fuels are projected to represent 15% of the global annual carbon budget by 2050. Single-use plastics like PET bottles have a significant carbon footprint and contribute to the depletion of energy resources. By replacing virgin materials with bio-based alternatives, the collaboration between Mitsubishi, ENEOS, and Suntory can substantially reduce plastic’s carbon emissions and waste.
To provide context for the project’s impact, a single-use PET water bottle contains 0.3 ounces of plastic. If each ounce of PET production emits 1 ounce of CO2, the production of 35 million bio-based PET bottles will prevent the emission of approximately 1.6 tons of CO2. Using a ratio of 5:1 (5 ounces of CO2 emissions for 1 ounce of plastic production), the project would prevent 58 million ounces of CO2 emissions, equivalent to 1.6 tons of CO2. Additionally, the sustainable PET bottle production project can generate plastic credits. Verra, the largest carbon registry, has a Plastic Program that certifies projects reducing or preventing the introduction of virgin plastic into the environment. Registered projects can issue plastic credits for waste reduction and recycling activities. Companies and individuals can purchase these credits to offset their plastic footprint and support initiatives that combat plastic waste. Mitsubishi and its partners can leverage Verra’s Plastic Program to fund their bio-based PET project and may also be eligible for carbon credits based on the amount of carbon emissions their initiative reduces.
Through their innovative supply chain for bio-based PET bottles, Mitsubishi and its partners are not only reducing carbon emissions by avoiding fossil fuels but also combating plastic waste. Their efforts set an admirable example for others to follow in the pursuit of sustainability and environmental responsibility.