Spirits company Diageo, best known for the Johnnie Walker, Guinness, and Smirnoff brands, announced this week that it’s created the world’s first plastic-free, paper-based bottle. Along with Monday’s announcement, Diageo also said it has partnered with venture management firm Pilot Lite to launch a sustainable packaging tech company called Puplex Limited.
First, the bottle. Puplex Limited designed and developed a bottle made from what the press release calls “sustainably sourced pulp” that is 100 percent free of plastic and also food safe and recyclable. The bottle will debut in 2021 with Johnnie Walker scotch whiskey.
Scotch won’t be the only beverage available via these new bottles. Puplex Limited created a consortium of companies that includes PepsiCo and Unilever to further develop these bottles and launch their own branded versions in 2021, based on Puplex’s designs and tech.
More than 1 million plastic bottles are sold globally every single minute, and each of of those takes about 450 years to completely degrade. When it comes to recycling said bottles, the U.S., certainly wouldn’t win any prizes, unless they’re for not recycling: in 2017, just 8 percent of plastics were recycled, according to data from the EPA.
Given our broken recycling system, major beverage companies (among others) are now under pressure to reduce their overall reliance on plastic. For example, in 2019, PepsiCo teamed up with Coca-Cola and Keurig-Dr. Pepper for the Every Bottle Back program, which aims to reduce plastic use as well as invest in the improvement of the recycling of plastic bottles.
So far, developing alt-packaging for the plastic bottles has proved challenging. It seems Diageo has made something of a breakthrough with its product announced this week. How scalable that breakthrough is across the entire beverage industry remains to be seen.