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Coca-Cola Explores A ‘Whole New World’ Of Plastic-Free Possibilities

  • Environment
  • Sustainable

Imagining a new world: Coca-Cola joins forces with Danish startup Paboco to unveil paper bottle prototype

We’ve already seen Coca-Cola begin its transition away from plastic by removing plastic shrink wrap from supermarket shelves and introducing sustainably-sourced cardboard. Now, the company is partnering with Danish startup Paboco, a paper bottle company started in 2019 to create a 100% paper-based bottle in efforts to further reduce plastic waste. The Coca-Cola x Paboco collaboration is part of Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste initiative; a challenging yet progressive environmental project that promises a push towards 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. 

“Imagine a world where each and every piece of packaging produced and sold is also collected and recycled after use.” Coca-Cola’s intentions are bold. They’re also necessary. As the world’s largest beverage company, Coca-Cola’s impact on the environment is huge. A report produced by Greenpeace back in 2017 claimed that the company’s global production had soared to more than 110 billions bottles each year, with Coca-Cola revealing its packaging numbers in 2017 to be 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging. But it seems the tide is beginning to turn, and Coke’s renewed environmental message is becoming clear: paper bottles are the way forward.

With a severe climate crisis unfolding across the world and the global consumption of single-use plastic still a major environmental issue, innovation is crucial for our planet’s survival. Whilst we should be critical of the effect major corporations have had on the environment, we must also support their efforts to clean up their act. “By changing the bottling industry for good,” reads the Paboco manifesto, “we have the opportunity to impact people’s choice of sustainable packaging and indirectly spark the beginning of an everyday movement.” Paboco’s vision is to create a 100% bio-based bottle – the finer details of which you can read about here – achieved through what the company calls “responsible forestry,” which includes sourcing strong wood fibres from sustainably managed forests and continuous replanting of trees.

Though Coca-Cola’s bottle prototype isn’t (yet) 100% bio-based, the focus is certainly on developing a more sustainable packaging model. “A paper bottle opens up a whole new world of packaging possibilities,” written in a statement released by Coca-Cola’s R&D packaging innovation manager, Stijn Franssen, “[W]e are convinced that paper packaging has a role to play in the future.” And Coca-Cola aren’t the only giants getting involved with Paboco’s innovation. Carlsberg spearheaded the efforts back in 2015, partnering with ecoXpac and postdoctoral researchers at the Danish Technical University, ultimately leading to the creation of Paboco. Along the way, The Absolut Company and L’Oreal have joined in with the paper bottle revolution, with Absolut launching its prototype across the UK and Sweden in January 2021. 

With up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic, according to a study published in the journal Science in 2015, entering into our oceans each year, the innovations being made in sustainable packaging could have an incredibly positive impact on our environment. Paboco’s technology may just be the first step, but it is nonetheless a big one that may just help save the planet.

Alex Stubbs

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