Not bottling out
Trees have been in the news more and more, thanks to discussions around the raw materials that will be trialled for new products in Europe and the UK this spring. It’s all to do with bottles…
At Restore Datashred, we know sustainability goals are big news when you’re some of the world’s largest producers of plastic bottled drinks, such as fizzy sodas, beer and vodka mixers. The Coca-Cola Company, Carlsberg and Absolut Vodka are all taking a step into the world of paper prototypes this year, with the ultimate aim of tackling the vast amounts of plastic their products put into the world. Coca-Cola, in particular, will be keen to be seen backing this prototype project as not only have they set out a company vision of zero waste by 2030, they were also ranked the world’s number one plastic polluter in 2020 by charity group, Break Free From Plastic, a fact that they would understandably want to move away from.
Why is it so hard to break free from plastic?
Using plastic is embedded in everyday life in more ways than any people realise. Infrastructure is built around its manufacture and use, making it far more cost effective, and not all of it gets thrown away. A great example of countries taking steps to rectify the plastic problem is Norway which has a staggering 97% recycling rate for plastic bottles, 92% of which are recycled to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles and, depending on its original quality, plastic can be recycled more than 50 times.
Norway is leaps and bounds ahead of any other country, but many do re-use plastic items many times over. Nevertheless, the bottom line is this: as plastic is made from fossil fuels and takes hundreds of years to biodegrade (whether in landfill or our oceans…), no matter how many times we use it, plastic cannot be considered sustainable.
Papering over the cracks
Paper, on the other hand, is usually made from a renewable source: well managed forests. It can be recycled only seven times before the fibres in it are too short and weak, however it biodegrades rapidly once disposed of responsibly. It makes sense therefore to experiment with paper when coming up with a plastic-free bottle capable of preventing gas escaping from carbonated drinks and robust enough to withstand the manhandling and transport involved in logistics and distribution.
The Paper Bottle Company which may be changing the future is Paboco, the innovative Danish business that hopes they have the answer. Over the course of seven years, they have designed a strong paper-fibre-based material that is mouldable, making it a great option for creating different sizes and shapes of bottles. An advantage of making products from one sheet of the material as hoped is the lack of need for joins, which ensures a strong and smooth end product. The bottles will have a bio-based lining that is non-porous, non-toxic and non-flaking, to make sure they make the grade with health and safety standards, and will be out on the shelves later this year.
Three trials are being rolled out in Hungary, the UK and Sweden with just 2,000 bottles apiece.
While this may seem like a tiny step forward, it could prove to be a giant leap for sustainability. Every innovation pushes the boundaries back on what has been acceptable and, on the back of the interest and investment from huge corporations such as Coca Cola, paper bottles could help pressurise governments around the world into driving up recyclability and reducing their carbon footprints.