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Coca-Cola is partnering with Danish startup Paboco to develop a 100% paper bottle.
“Our vision is to create a paper bottle than can be recycled like any other type of paper, and this prototype is the first step on the way to achieving this,” says Stijn Franssen, R&D packaging innovation manager, Coca-Cola EMEA. “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.”
The first-generation prototype consists of a paper shell with a 100% recycled plastic closure and liner inside. The next step, Franssen, says, is to create a paper bottle without the plastic liner.
Franssen’s team is conducting extensive lab testing at The Coca-Cola Company’s Brussels-based R&D center to assess how the paper bottle performs, holds up and protects its contents while refrigerated and in other scenarios.
“We also reflect on how our consumers will react to this paper bottle,” Franssen adds. “Topics like when and where it could be sold and how it can be recycled are all considered. This is all part of our journey to find the most sustainable packaging solutions for people to enjoy our drinks in a way that is right for them, and that is right for our planet.”
Paper bottles – which Paboco believes have potential for use with sparkling and still beverages, and other consumer goods sectors such as cosmetics – must adhere to the same stringent safety and quality standards as other food and beverage packaging.
Potential Breakthrough in Packaging Circularity
Michael Michelsen, business development manager at Paboco, said the project is still in its initial stages of development. “We’re focused on several different development areas, which all tie back to our vision of creating a 100% recyclable and bio-based bottle,” he said. “This has potential to be a real breakthrough in circularity for the industry, unearthing huge potential in how packaging is designed, produced and used by consumers.”
Michelsen added, “Changing an industry requires progress in increments and a push for sustainable change. The paper bottle concept remains a work in progress, and being able to truly evolve and scale to meet producer and consumer demand is one of the critical challenges to overcome.”
Coca-Cola is among a small group of “pioneer” companies – with expertise in beverage production and marketing, as well as packaging material, design and technology – working to explore the paper bottle concept with Paboco (short for The Paper Bottle Company).
“The Pioneer Community is a natural next step to fulfill our goal of making a lasting change, by working with and learning from international brands to ensure that our innovations match the real-life needs of producers and consumers,” Michelsen said. “We believe that forming the community will help provide the much-needed insight and guidance to help further develop a concept that has potential to scale. We also believe that it can help us solve technical challenges, build on shared learnings in development, and positively push us all forward.”
The paper bottle concept supports The Coca-Cola Company’s World Without Waste sustainable packaging goal to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030, while substantially reducing use of virgin packaging materials and using only 100% recyclable packaging materials. Achieving this vision requires investment in innovation and collaboration with partners to drive collection, recycling and sustainable design.