Pouring away emissions: How packagers are reducing alcoholic beverages’ environmental footprint
14 Dec 2022 --- Alcoholic beverage consumption is on the decline globally, with Innova Market Insights reporting a 4% year-over-year drop in launches between 2021 and 2022. However, as one of the world’s most popular beverage types, the industry is rapidly innovating new solutions to improve the environmental sustainability of alcoholic drink packaging.
The market researcher found that bottles (54%) are the leading packaging format among the alcoholic beverage launches tracked. Between 2021 and 2022, glass (53%) was the leading packaging material among the products tracked.
The top environmental sustainability-related claim among all global alcoholic beverage product launches was recyclable (73%).
PackagingInsights speaks with experts from Frugalpac and UPM Raflatac to discover the latest tactics and trends in reducing the environmental footprint of alcoholic drink products.
These companies exemplify how the industry can advance through labeling and container changes. Material reduction and alterations, as well as recycling and reuse, all play a part in adding to the environmental sustainability-related claims made by the industry.
Switching and closing
Stefano Pistoni, senior manager of business development, Wine & Spirits, and Beverage at UPM Raflatac, tells us, “we help alcoholic beverage companies improve their packaging sustainability through two key ways: by making the switch and closing the loop.”
The switch, Pistoni explains, rests primarily on changing the material used to label beverages – be it bottles, cans or bag-in-box solutions. For example, label solutions can be designed with reduced and post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials.
“Switching to sustainable label materials has never been easier thanks to the wide range of solutions now available to beverage manufacturers. For example, SmartChoice label materials are designed to reduce material usage while also promoting the use of PCR content and renewable materials,” he says.
“Some innovative examples include the Ocean Action label – the world’s first label material made from ocean-bound plastic through a mass balance approach – and Forest Film, a 100% renewable wood-based film material.”
At the same time, UPM says it is “closing the loop” by helping manufacturers promote circularity in three ways: enabling packaging recycling, promoting package reuse, and encouraging efficient recycling of label waste.
British company Frugalpac is focusing on tackling alcoholic beverage containers rather than labels. The company creates and supplies recycled paper-based products with what it says is the lowest carbon footprint.
The business claims its first product, the Frugal Cup, is the world’s only recyclable F&B cup made from 96% recycled paper, using 60% less carbon than conventional paper cups.
“Frugalpac is motivated by a passion for reducing the impact of carbon on the planet by engineering sustainable packaging using recycled paper that’s easy to recycle again. We are helping to decarbonize the alcoholic drinks industry,” says Frugalpac CEO Malcolm Waugh.
“As we approach Christmas 2022, more than 30 drink brands are using our bottles around the world for wines, gins, vodkas, tequila, rum, cocktails, calvados and even olive oil,” he adds.
Frugal Bottles bottles are on sale in 19 countries worldwide, including Japan, North America, the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and soon in South Africa and New Zealand. The company has raised a total of £4.5 million (US$5.58 million) in funding in the last two years.
Pistoni explains that UPM Raflatac’s top priority is to deliver sustainable packaging solutions that answer the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which was revised recently.
“We will continue our focus on supporting beverage brands in making the switch to more sustainable label materials by developing our SmartChoice product portfolio,” he says.
“From plant-based materials to solvent-free adhesives and certified papers, this portfolio helps brands to make material selections using solutions that keep the materials in use for as long as possible,” explains Pistoni.
“SmartChoice label materials are designed to ensure consumer safety, reduce material usage, increase downgauging and promote the use of post-consumer recycled content and renewable materials.”
Even if the beverage packaging material is highly recyclable, the label choice can greatly impact its overall recyclability, Pistoni continues.
“The wrong label material can result in lower quality of recyclate and downcycling of valuable raw materials. Therefore, wash-off and other label solutions compatible with recycling can help brands resolve the issue. When labels detach easily and do not strain the recycling process, the packaging can be recycled with optimal results.”
“Wash-off labels also enable reuse with certain beverage packaging, such as glass bottles. At UPM Raflatac, we want to ensure the availability of recycling compatible label materials that can tackle these challenges, both for now and for the future. At the same time, we must help alcoholic beverage brands to ‘stand out’ on a shelf in the highly competitive market,” he asserts.
Innova Market Insights spotlighted the switch many global brands are making to paper-based products with its “Fiber-based Frenzy” trend. This trend results from global anti-plastics sentiment, which translates into policy and legislation such as the Single Use Plastics Directive and ongoing negotiations for a UN plastics treaty.
Paper bottle company Paboco has been catering to the alcohol industry’s connection to this trend by creating fiber-based bottles for spirits. Last year, vodka brand Absolut launched the Absolut Paper Bottle in the UK and Sweden after a Paboco bottle prototype was successfully trialed in the UK in the fall of 2020.
Similarly, Netherlands-based Avantium and Carlsberg are advancing the commercialization of the Fibre Bottle, a 100% plant-based, fully recyclable beer bottle with a wood fiber outer shell and PEF (polyethylene furanoate) lining. Carlsberg is sampling 8,000 bottles across Western Europe to test performance and determine consumer satisfaction.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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