Glass bottles are a more sustainable option than plastic bottles, but plastic bottles have their advantages too: They don’t break, and they’re lighter than glass which makes them more environmentally-friendly to ship. So companies have continued to look for packaging that offers all of these benefits like aluminum bottles, for example. But for nearly five years, the Danish brewery Carlsberg and its partners have been working on an even more novel solution: “the world’s first ‘paper bottle.'”
Originally announced in 2015, the “Green Fibre Bottle”—as Carlsberg calls it—is inching its way closer to reality: This week, the brewer showed off two new research prototypes which are said to be “made from sustainably sourced wood fibers” and are “both 100-percent bio-based and fully recyclable.” For now, however, the prototypes still need a plastic film on the inside to be able to hold beer. One of the prototypes uses a recycled PET polymer film while the other uses a bio-based PEF polymer film. Still, the company says “its ultimate ambition [is] a 100-percent bio-based bottle without polymers.”
“We are pleased with the progress we’ve made on the Green Fibre Bottle so far,” Myriam Shingleton, vice president of group development at Carlsberg Group, said in the announcement. “While we are not completely there yet, the two prototypes are an important step towards realizing our ultimate ambition of bringing this breakthrough to market. Innovation takes time and we will continue to collaborate with leading experts in order to overcome remaining technical challenges, just as we did with our plastic-reducing Snap Pack.” As you may recall, the Snap Pack—announced last year—allows Carlsberg to replace plastic rings on six-packs of cans with glue.
Finding a way to remove those plastic films may be even more important than it sounds—in part because glass is such a sustainable option to begin with. As a Carlsberg spokesperson explained to me, “The two new prototypes are not better or more sustainable than the returnable glass bottle but our long term goal is to transform packaging with the paper bottle technology and make it completely bio-based and biodegradable.”
Still, Carlsberg’s latest announcement also proves that “the world’s first ‘paper bottle'” is far from a publicity stunt. The project now has its own dedicated paper bottle company, known as Paboco—which has also announced it’s partnered with three other major brands: The Coca-Cola Company, The Absolut Company, and L’Oreal. “It is all about the team!” Paboco Interim CEO Gittan Schiold stated. “We are collaborating across the value chain, sharing the risks and are united in our vision that the paper bottle will become a reality and fundamentally change this industry for good.”
So, no, we’re not quite ready to make a toast to a paper beer bottle yet, but they’re getting closer. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we can cheers our sustainable paper bottles together with a glorious, barely audible thud!