Coca-Cola Introduces Its First Paper Bottle Prototype

by Bill McCool on 10/21/2020 | 2 Minute Read

Last January, Coca-Cola made waves when Bea Perez, their senior vice president of communications, marketing, and sustainability, said that consumers want single-use plastic bottles while at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Instead, the brand would focus on recycling and using more recycled plastic in its packaging as switching over to just aluminum or glass would increase their carbon footprint.

So, yeah. Coca-Cola very much wants you to recycle your bottles when you get done with them, but because they don’t have to assume any responsibility for it, it’s still on the consumer.

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Now, Coca-Cola has just announced that they are prototyping their first paper bottle. This iteration of the paper bottle isn’t just the tree stuff, however, as the prototype consists of a paper shell that encases a plastic liner and closure. The bottle innovation comes as part of Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste commitment, where they plan to collect a bottle or can for every single beverage they sell in addition to using substrates and materials that are 100% recyclable. The brand worked together on the concept with Paboco, the same company that developed the Absolut paper bottle.

“Our vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any other type of paper, and this prototype is the first step on the way to achieving this. A paper bottle opens up a whole new world of packaging possibilities, and we are convinced that paper packaging has a role to play in the future,” said Stijn Franssen, EMEA R&D Packaging Innovation Manager at Coca-Cola, in a press release.

“The plastic we use is made from 100% recycled plastic that can be recycled again after use,” Stijn added (pump your brakes though, kids, because all downcycled plastic will pretty much end up in landfill or incinerator someday). “But our vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any paper. The next step is to find a solution to create a bottle without the plastic liner.”

So, will the paper bottle be Coca-Cola’s silver bullet when it comes to single-use plastic waste? That remains to be seen, but given the brand’s commitment to giving consumers what they supposedly want and the fact that they’re recognized as the world’s most polluting brand, the paper bottle is likely little more than a public relations gimmick.

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And that's not a slight to the R&D folks at Coca-Cola or Paboco—no one said that creating a paper bottle for a carbonated beverage would be a walk in the park. Any kind of progress is worth celebrating, even when it’s not a vessel made from 100% paper and won’t come anywhere near a store shelf. It’s tough to view this as a viable-or scalable-path forward when they've committed themselves to using more plastic.

But, hey, look, a paper bottle.

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