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Coke tabs Virent for 'green' bottles

Coca-Cola Co.'s quest to replace oil as a source of plastic for bottles led it to sign multimillion dollar deals with Madison-based Virent Inc. and two other biofuels technology firms.

The agreements, announced Thursday, will propel Virent - a company hatched in the chemistry labs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison - from research and development mode to commercial production in the coming years.

The agreement will help Virent move forward with plans to open a commercial plant by 2015.

The announcement came months after Virent announced a research breakthrough that can enable bottling companies to make plastic bottles entirely from materials derived from plants.

Until now, bottles of Coke that carry the PlantBottle label have been made 30% from plant material and 70% from fossil fuels. Coke has produced 10 billion PlantBottles, including the Dasani water bottles in the United States, since it launched the initiative in 2009.
Under the new agreement, Virent and two other biofuels technology firms, Gevo and Avantium, were all selected to help Coke provide 100% renewable, 100% plant-based bottles.

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