Photo/IllutrationPlastic flakes, far right, are created by shredding collected plastic bottles and then turned into pellets, second from right, before being converted into a semi-finished product similar to a test tube and finally turning out as a plastic bottle on the far left. (Hiroki Hashimoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

The parent company of one of the nation's leading brewing concerns has set a goal of doing away with all PET bottles using plastic derived from fossil fuel-based materials by 2030.

Instead, Suntory Holdings Ltd. will manufacture plastic bottles from recycled and plant-based materials, the first such attempt in Japan, company officials said.

The move comes amid mounting global concern about the impact of plastic garbage on the environment. The topic is expected to be discussed at the Group of 20 summit meeting to be held in Osaka in late June.

On June 7, Suntory signed an agreement with the Osaka city government as a first step toward obtaining a stable supply of plastic bottles for recycling.

Under the agreement, Suntory will take over plastic bottle collection from the city. The company will seek out contracts with the 300 or so neighborhood associations in the city that handle plastic bottle collection. Neighborhood associations that agree to cooperate with Suntory would be asked to instruct local residents to remove the cap and labels and rinse the bottles with water so they can be recycled.

Suntory, with an eye of starting the project this summer, plans to purchase plastic from those associations at the going rate in Osaka Prefecture of about 46,000 yen ($425) per ton. Bottles from other manufacturers would also be accepted.

Osaka city authorities would continue to collect plastic bottles in neighborhoods where no agreement is reached.

According to city government officials, not all collected bottles can be recycled. Some arrive in a filthy state, filled with cigarettes butts, while others are dumped with ordinary garbage rather than properly separated for recycling.

As a result, while about 7,000 tons of plastic bottles were collected and recycled in fiscal 2017, about 1,300 tons had to be incinerated because recycling was not an option.

City officials hope that paying for the collection by Suntory will encourage consumers to dispose of bottles properly.

Masao Itoko, the president of Suntory Monozukuri Expert Ltd., which will be in charge of the project, said, "We hope to collect plastic bottles in a good state."

Of the 280,000 tons of plastic bottles manufactured in 2018, only about 10 percent were made from recycled plastic or plant-based materials that are biodegradable.

To reach its goal of not using any bottles made from fossil fuel-based materials, Suntory plans to increase the number of its recycling plants as well as look for more ways to use bottles from plant-based materials.

Other companies are also taking steps toward greater recycling of plastic bottles.

Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. and Seven & i Holdings Co. announced plans this month to begin selling green tea drinks in containers made completely from recycled plastic from bottles collected at convenience stores and other outlets operated by the major retailing giant.

Other beverage manufacturers have also devised plans to cooperate with local governments for the collection of plastic bottles.

"We hope to reduce the burden on the environment by promoting the reuse of plastic bottles," a Suntory official said.