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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Diageo Announces World’s First 100% Plastic-Free, Paper-Based Spirits Bottle

Looks like Johnnie Walker scotch could be first to market with a paper-based packaging solution, made from sustainably sourced wood pulp, early next year.

Spirits giant Diageo — parent company of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness — has announced the creation of the world’s first-ever, 100% plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle; made entirely from sustainably sourced wood. The bottle will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021.

The innovation is the result of a new Diageo partnership with venture management company Pilot Lite to launch Pulpex Limited — a new sustainable packaging technology company. To ensure that the technology is a viable solution across multiple product categories, Pulpex has established a partner consortium of leading, non-competing FMCG companies Unilever and PepsiCo, with further partners expected to be announced later in the year. The consortium partners are each expecting to launch their own branded paper bottles, based on Pulpex Limited’s design and technology, in 2021.

Speaking of competing, the CPG industry has been working to develop viable, paper-based containers for years. In June 2013, Danish packaging innovator ecoXpac manufactured the first prototype of a molded-fiber bottle based on recycled paper. Since then, the project has evolved into a collaborative project between some of the world's leading players in technology and barriers — culminating in late 2016, when Carlsberg Group revealed a first physical prototype of its Green Fiber Bottle. Then, in late 2019, with the addition of paper packaging innovator BillerudKorsnäs and bottle manufacturing specialist Alpla, ecoXpac evolved into Paboco — a “paper bottling community” of companies including Absolut, Coca-Cola and L’Oréal collaborating to advance the development of the technology.

But now, Pulpex Limited says it’s about ready to go to market — with what it’s calling a ‘first-of-its-kind’ scalable paper-based bottle, designed and developed to be 100 percent plastic free and recyclable. According to The Drinks Business, while both Paboco’s and Pulpex’s designs are made from sustainably sourced wood fibers, Carlsberg’s prototypes have an inner barrier — one a thin recycled PET polymer film, the other a bio-based PEF polymer film — allowing the bottle to hold beer. Diageo’s, on the other hand, is lined with a spray coating instead of a plastic film, which the company claims makes it the “world’s first plastic-free paper bottle.”

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The Pulpex Limited partnership will help Diageo, PepsiCo and Unilever advance their commitments to give their packaging a radical, sustainable upgrade by 2025.

Read more about Pulpex Limited's paper-based bottle here.