Coca-Cola trials paper bottle, we read between the lines...
It is always encouraging to see a new approach to environmentally friendly packaging, but it is easy to get sucked into the positives of a new pack or material without fully considering the negatives.
In other words, trust but verify.
We saw this new Coke paper bottle prototype being trialled last week. Apparently it is a paper shell with a 100% recycled plastic liner inside. That ticks a few top line boxes, but there are several issues that would need to be resolved to make this work. The main one is how the materials would be separated for recycling. Not impossible. Drinks cartons, for example, are recyclable, although not necessarily particularly efficiently.
At the moment this looks like a plastic bottle inside a paper bottle, which doesn't make much sense environmentally or economically, so certainly they would be better off sticking to one material. Reading between the lines, it looks like the ultimate aim would be to use a plant-based plastic liner with a paper shell.
A major focus of green packaging design is not just reducing greenhouse gases, but reducing the potential harm packaging does to the natural environment, so a recyclable pack that can quickly bio-degrade would likely be the way to go. Again, maybe not so simple for Coke. Biodegradable bio-based plastics do not compare to petro-plastics when it comes to gas barrier efficiency (something we have been looking at recently).
Another issue would be recyclability and compostability. Even a paper-based outer with a bio-plastic liner would not necessarily be acceptable for recycling as paper. Biodegradable paper cups, for instance, usually are not recyclable in the UK. Which is not to say that this couldn't change. Coca-Cola have huge influence, so were they to get their ducks in a row to create a fully recyclable biodegradable bottle the sheer potential volume might make it worthwhile processing them. Or they could do as the carton manufacturers did and come up with their own recycling process.
It will be interesting to see where this goes…
If our thoughts excite you, get in touch with Laurel and Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image by Coca-Cola Europe via https://www.coca-cola.eu/news/supporting-environment/paper-bottle-prototype-to-trial