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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
That’s the Spirit! Bacardi’s Biodegradable Bottle Latest Boon to Beverage Packaging

Set to arrive in 2023, the bottle — which will biodegrade in 18 months — will replace 80M plastic bottles currently produced by Bacardi across its portfolio of brands every year.

Hot on the heels of the unveiling last month of Absolut’s fully recyclable paper bottle — set to hit shelves in 2021 — and amidst a flurry of industry innovation determined to rein in our global plastic pollution problem, Bacardi this week unveiled plans to put what it’s calling “the world’s most sustainable spirits bottle” on shelf by 2023.

The 100 percent biodegradable bottle is the result of a collaboration between Bacardi and Danimer Scientific, a leading developer and manufacturer of biodegradable products. Petroleum-based plastics used by Bacardi today will be replaced by Danimer’s Nodax™ PHA — a biopolymer derived from the natural oils of plant seeds such as palm, canola and soy — by 2023. While a regular plastic bottle takes over 400 years to decompose, the new, Nodax-based bottle will biodegrade in a wide range of environments — including compost, soil, freshwater and sea water — and disappear after 18 months without leaving behind harmful microplastics.

The new bottles will replace 80 Million plastic bottles — 3,000 tons of plastic — currently produced by Bacardi, the world’s largest family-owned spirits company, across its portfolio of brands every year.

BACARDÍ® rum will be the first spirit to appear in the new bottle, before the plant-based material is rolled out to replace single-use plastic across the entire Bacardi supply chain and the company’s 200 brands and labels — including BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, GREY GOOSE® vodka, PATRÓN® tequila, MARTINI® vermouth and DEWAR’S® Scotch whisky.

Ned Duggan, SVP of BACARDÍ rum, said: “Over our 158-year history, BACARDÍ has always believed in respecting the world’s natural resources and acting responsibly, from the sustainable sourcing of our sugarcane to the water and energy used to make our rum. We’re now excited to be pioneering this new biopolymer technology for the benefit of all Bacardi brands and the entire spirits industry.”

Bacardi is also on the growing paper bottle bandwagon with Absolut, Carlsberg and others. Along with the new biopolymer bottle, Bacardi is creating a paper bottle that also contains the Nodax PHA polymer — to create a sustainable package that still ensures that the quality and taste of the spirit inside a bottle made of paper is as exceptional as one made of glass.

Thanks to the versatility of the Nodax PHA polymer, the Bacardi Packaging Development team is also working to crack one of the beverage industry’s longest-standing plastic problems — the plastic lining of bottle closures.

“It may sound small, but add that up across every bottle produced globally and we’re talking many tonnes of plastic every day,” says Jean-Marc Lambert, SVP of Global Operations for Bacardi. “Once we’ve fixed the problem, we’ll be open-sourcing the solution for the entire industry to use. This isn’t about competitive advantage it’s about doing the right thing for the planet.

“When we set ourselves the goal of being 100 percent plastic free by 2030, we knew that it would take groundbreaking advances in packaging design to make it achievable, and that’s exactly what’s happening through our partnership with Danimer.”

Danimer Scientific was first on our radar back in 2013 — when Canada’s Canterbury Coffee used an earlier PLA-based resin from Danimer for its compostable, biodegradable OneCoffee pods. Since 2017, Danimer has been working closely with PepsiCo to develop biodegradable film resins for use in the company’s snack packaging. Nodax PHA is already being used for a wide range of applications — including thermoformed trays, drinking straws, flexible and multi-layer film packaging, coatings, disposable cutlery and more.

In 2016, Bacardi led the drinks industry by committing to eliminate all single-use plastic straws in its cocktails. And two years ago, it began a collaboration with the Lonely Whale Foundation to remove single-use plastic straws from bars and restaurants. Danimer’s release of its completely biodegradable plastic straws in 2018 has complemented these initiatives to help reduce the global impact of plastic waste.

With the growing wave of industry initiatives, innovations and collaborations propelling solutions to end global packaging waste, we’re willing to bet Bacardi will have plenty of competition for the title of “the world’s most sustainable spirits bottle” by 2023.