Guinness to replace plastic six pack rings with cardboard

The new cardboard pack for Guinness
The new cardboard Guinness multipack
Guinness has pledged to remove plastic rings from its multipacks of cans as part of a drive to reduce wasteful plastics.

The move has come from Guinness’ parent company Diageo, and will also apply to Harp and Smithwick’s beers. Plastic six pack rings and plastic shrink wrap will be replaced with a cardboard alternative, meaning that along with the cans, the entire multipack unit should be recyclable in kerbside systems. The new packaging will be on shelves in Ireland from August 2019 and in the UK and further afield by summer 2020.

Diageo claims that this move will save an annual 400 tonnes of plastic from going to waste – equivalent to 40 million 500-millilitre plastic bottles.

The company is investing £16 million to replace the rings and shrink wrap, and will also be funnelling £8 million into its East Belfast bottling and packaging plant, which will be the first facility to begin producing the new cardboard multipacks.

David Cutter, Diageo’s Chief Sustainability Officer and President, Global Supply & Procurement, commented: “Great packaging is essential for our products. Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three. We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly and I’m thrilled with this outcome for Guinness and our other global beer brands.”

Plastic six-pack rings
The plastic rings on multipacks of cans, also known as yokes, have long been problematic, with littered rings persisting in the environment for years and presenting a danger to wildlife. Pictures of animals caught up in the plastic rings have fuelled calls for new designs, but companies have until recently failed to come up with an alternative to the commonplace plastic product.

However, Guinness is not the first beer company to remove the offending plastic items from its packaging. Back in 2018, Carlsberg began to phase in its ‘Snap Pack’ design, replacing rings and shrink wrap with dots of glue to hold cans together. The company claims the glue can be left on the cans for recycling.

Corona has also been testing out plastic alternatives as part of a partnership with environmental campaign group Parley for the Oceans. A plant-based biodegradable six pack ring is being trialled in Mexico, with a UK trial to follow later this year.

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