Pepsi joins Bio-plastic Alliance with Sarnia Connection

An alliance of companies formed to develop water bottles made from renewable plastic has been joined by another big name.

The NaturALL Bottle Alliance, formed in 2017 by Danone, Nestle Waters and California-based Origin Materials, said this week the owners of Pepsi have signed on.

Origin Materials is building a demonstration-scale production plant in Sarnia to turn used cardboard and sawdust into bio-based chemicals used in plastics and other materials.

“PepsiCo is a welcome addition to the alliance because we share the goal of making renewable plastic a reality,” John Bissell, Origin Materials’ CEO, said in a news release.

The young company’s Sarnia “pioneer” plant is expected to reach full production in 2020.

Stephen Galowitz, chief commercial officer with Origin Materials, spoke Wednesday about how the alliance formed while taking part in a panel discussion at a Canadian BioDesign Conference in Sarnia.

“It’s very hard for a small startup company to really move the needle and develop an entire downstream supply chain,” he said. “We decided it was easier to pull on a string than push on a rope.”

Several more steps in the plastic bottle production chain take place after Origin Materials makes its bio-chemical, he said.

“This supply chain is massive; it has been around for 75 years.”

Origin Materials decided to approach Danone and Nestle with the aim of using “their leverage, their procurement power, their heft in the market to drag our product through the product supply chain,” he said.

That led to forming of an alliance to work together “in order to telegraph to the market that this matters, bio-materials matter.”

Galowitz said getting the company’s bio-chemicals into the supply chain would have been much more difficult without the involvement of the large companies who are “big players” in bottled water.

But, it took a great deal of work to get the competitors together in the alliance and initial meetings had to be held on neutral territory at the French bottled water association, Galowitz said.

“Relatively quickly – and lubricated with some good French wine – everybody sort of relaxed,” and the alliance has been working successfully now for approximately 18 months, Galowitz said.

Shortly after the alliance was announced, PepsiCo made contact and has now signed on as a partner.

“Now, we have three of the major competitors in the bottled water industry dragging this product through to market,” Galowitz said.

The Sarnia plant is expected to allow Origin Materials to show its technology can be successful at a commercial scale while producing enough bio-chemicals for customers to qualify their use with their own production processes.

Origin Materials plans to build additional production plants, once the Sarnia demonstration plant is up and running.

The company has said its Sarnia plant is expected to create “a few dozen” permanent jobs.

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