Diageo launches paper-based spirits bottle free from plastic

Diageo has announced the creation of its first plastic-free bottle for spirits made from sustainably-sourced pulp in a statement made by the beverage company yesterday (13 July).

The announcement comes after Diageo established its partnership with Pilot Lite, a venture management company, and launched Pulpex Limited, a new sustainable packaging technology company that has developed the paper-based bottle. 

Diageo states that the bottle is 100 per cent free from PET plastic and is made from sustainably-sourced pulp from renewable wood stocks overseen by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). The bottle meets food safety standards and is fully recyclable in standard paper and cardboard recycling streams.

The new bottle will debut with the Johnnie Walker whisky in early 2021. Diageo, which also makes brands such as  Smirnoff and Guiness, hopes that the new design will pave the way for other brands to rethink their packaging designs and move towards plastic-free alternatives.

To get other brands on board with packaging their products in plastic-free materials, Pulpex Limited has established a partner consortium with a number of fast-moving consumer goods companies, including PepsiCo and Unilever. The partners are expecting to launch versions of their own goods in plastic-free alternative packaging, manufactured by Pulpex Limited, in 2021.

Ewan Andrew, Chief Sustainability Officer at Diageo, said: “We’re proud to have created this world first. We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be truly ground-breaking.”

Sandy Westwater, Director, Pilot Lite said: “We’re thrilled to be working with global brand leaders in this consortium. By working together, we can use the collective power of the brands to help minimise the environmental footprint of packaging by changing manufacturing and consumer behaviours.”

Diageo’s paper-based bottle is the latest example of a shift away from plastic packaging towards alternative materials in a bid to tackle the highly publicised issue of plastic pollution.

Alongside this, think tank Green Alliance has previously warned that plastic is not the only offender when it comes to single-use drinks containers. While alternative drinks containers like cartons have a lower carbon footprint than other materials, they tend to contain plastic or foil linings in order to keep the paper outer from getting wet. Therefore, it is difficult to turn cartons back into cartons, and they usually end up being downgraded into other paper or board products.

In another report, this time by the Green Alliance’s Circular Economy Task Force, paper packaging alternatives were found to often have a much higher carbon impact than expected, with a Danish study finding the need to reuse a paper bag 43 times in order for it to have a lower impact than the average plastic bag.

Libby Peake, Head of Resource Policy at Green Alliance, stated that to reduce the carbon impact of packaging, moving away from single-use was more important than moving away from a particular material. She said: “Companies need much more help from the government to tackle plastic pollution without making climate change and other environmental impacts worse in the process. We need to address the root of the problem, our throwaway society.”