- Spirits maker Bacardi is moving to bottle all its brands in a 100% biodegradable plastic packaging made with plant-based oils by 2023, according to an announcement by the company. The transition will eliminate 80 million plastic bottles currently produced by the company each year.
- The company said these new plastic bottles biodegrade in 18 months in compost, soil, fresh water and sea water, and do not leave microplastics behind. Additionally, Bacardi is looking into developing a sustainably sourced paper bottle.
- PET plastic remains one of the most commonly used resins in food and beverage packaging. Pressure from consumers has forced food and beverage makers to pursue efforts to cut back on plastic and operate more sustainably. Bacardi is the latest entrant in the alcohol industry that has worked on releasing packaging solutions that are less reliant on petroleum-based plastics.
This commitment is part of Bacardi's larger promise to become 100% plastic-free by 2030. In addition to launching these new bottles in 2023, the company has also committed to removing all non-essential single-use plastic in the next three years.
These two moves will be accompanied by additional research by the company to conquer one of the industry’s most pesky problems: the plastic lining of bottle closures. Jean-Marc Lambert, senior vice president of Global Operations for Bacardi, said in a statement eliminating this source of plastic will amount to tons of plastic saved daily, and the company hopes that it can share its findings. "Once we’ve fixed the problem, we’ll be open sourcing the solution for the entire industry to use,” he said.
Working collaboratively on sustainable packaging solutions seems to have already taken a foothold in the food and beverage industry. Efforts to work in alliance with each other may increase in frequency as companies' deadlines for pledges to make their packaging recyclable are hovering. Greenpeace recently reported CPG companies have not shown substantial progress on their sustainability goals.
Paboco is a joint venture between paper packaging material company BillerudKorsnäs and companies including Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut in which they are working together on paper bottles. Carlsberg is now in the prototype phase in its initiative to produce a fully recyclable beer bottle called the "Green Fibre Bottle." There is also Pulpex Limited, a sustainable packaging technology company that is supported by a consortium of companies, including Diageo, Unilever and PepsiCo. Diageo's paper-based bottle will debut with Johnnie Walker scotch whisky in early 2021.
Both of those collaborations are focusing on developing paper bottles, a solution that Bacardi has identified as secondary next to its collaborative development of plant-based plastic. Creating plastic that is environmentally friendly but mimics the qualities of traditional petroleum-based products has been tricky, and if Bacardi is able to accomplish that feat with Danimer Scientific, it could stand out among its peers.
Designing high-quality sustainable packaging that keeps products fresh, holds liquids and endures temperature changes has been challenging for manufacturers, which is why many have continued to use traditional plastic. Those that have developed solutions use a mix of materials. TetraPak's packaging is made from thin layers of polyethylene, paper and aluminum put together. Unless those layers are separated, the packaging may not be accepted by every recycler. Danimer Scientific has proven that its technology has the ability to bridge these gaps and is also attracting the attention of other major food and beverage partners like Nestlé, who is partnering with the company to develop biodegradable water bottles.
The alcohol manufacturer is not the only one pursuing an alternative form of plastic for its packaging. Rebbl is transitioning to 100% recycled and recyclable plastic bottles for all of its 12-ounce organic plant-based beverages. And other manufacturers are likely eyeing a new discovery of an enzyme that can break down 90% of PET plastics into food-grade material in a matter of hours.
Still, there are downsides to pursuing sustainable packaging outside of quality control questions. Pursuing green packaging could result in increased costs for Bacardi, which could then be passed to the consumer. However, consumers have shown that not only are they increasingly making purchases based on a company's sustainability efforts, but they are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging options, even during the pandemic.