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Innovation in sustainable beverage packaging: Trends and technologies

The beverage industry is looking at reducing its environmental impact and has begun to take big strides in that direction, across the production chain. A major push for the green transformation of the sector can be seen in the increasing use and exploration of sustainable packaging which has evolved from a niche to a necessity for the beverage industry. 

A confluence of factors, including evolving regulations, consumer preferences for eco-friendly products, and the need to reduce emissions, are the primary factors driving the trend towards sustainable packaging.

The rise of new materials

Through constant innovations in others fields, a number of new materials have become available to create containers that can be used for sustainable beverage packaging. 

Plant-based plastic

Plant-based plastics, which are often made from corn starch or sugarcane, are one such replacement for petroleum-based plastics. These bioplastics perform the same role as traditional plastics and are also compostable. They decompose into harmless substances minimising pollution in landfills.

Recyclable packaging solutions

Recycling is one of the pillars of sustainable packaging and has the potential to improve the carbon footprint of the industry.

Glass stands out as a sustainable beverage packaging option due to its recyclability and durability. With an endless lifecycle, it reduces waste and conserves resources. Lightweight glass innovations further minimise environmental impact, making it an excellent choice for eco-conscious consumers and environmentally responsible brands.

Some beverage companies have adopted what they refer to as closed-loop recycling systems, where used bottles and cans are collected and then turned into new packaging. This enables a closed circle of use and reuse, which results in real reduction in virgin material consumption and dramatically decreases the environmental footprint.

Smart packaging technologies

Technology involving smart packaging is set to change the beverage industry. The advantages of smart packaging are manifold including sustainability, consumer interaction and more efficient product tracking.

Smart labelling

Smart labelling, with QR codes or NFC chips, offers consumers information such as the origins of the product as well as its recycling instructions. 

With a simple scan or tap of their smartphone, they can access details about the product’s origin, brewing process, and most importantly, recycling instructions.

NFC enabled bottles

NFC-enabled bottles are an example of smart packaging. Shoppers can swipe their smartphone against the bottle to find out more about where the product has come from and how it gets from the farm or factory to the shop shelf. It engages the consumer in recycling and provides easy instructions.

Reusable packaging

Another trend that is gaining momentum is the move back towards reusable packaging. At its core, it tackles the real issue of single-use packaging, turning consumers into return and refill customers for their beverages.

Deposit return schemes

Deposit return schemes (DRS) are used to incentivise consumers to return their used packaging and receive a small refund. These schemes have been successful in reducing litter and increasing recycling rates.

Refillable bottles

Long-lasting glass containers can be used over and over again or recycled easily. With this model, resources used for packaging a single-time product can be significantly lowered and waste curtailed,

Regulatory impacts & the power of consumer demand

Consumers now have a huge impact on how and what brands manufacture. There are greater restrictions being placed on plastic use, and there has been a huge push globally for new regulations to be put in place as we start to see the effects of waste and landfills on communities.

Legal changes

Several nations have passed legislation that forbids the production of single-use plastics and penalises industries that fail to meet recycling goals. In response, businesses are innovating in terms of sustainable packaging to meet regulatory requirements.

Consumer awareness

Awareness and interest in sustainable goods are higher than ever. Consumers today are environmentally conscious, and much more likely to choose brands that share the same passion for sustainability. Consumer behaviour is changing fast, as are expectations on sustainable goals. This is approving to be a key catalyst for companies to adopt sustainable packaging across the beverage and other industries .

The future of beverage packaging

The move towards biodegradable materials and recyclable solutions; push for sustainable and smart packaging; and an increase in the reusability of materials is bringing about change. This transformation, enforced by changing regulations and consumer expectations, is in turn shaping the future of sustainability in beverage packaging.

The market is ever-changing – and sustainable packaging is simply the next step in making our planet a little greener and more kind. The need, for the beverage industry, is to firmly adopt these changes and technologies. This could have a huge positive impact on the environment, with everyone benefiting from the changes. Sustainability is a journey that is never complete without innovation and dedication. The future is one where beverage bottles serve their purpose while contributing to a healthier and life-sustaining planet.

About the Author

Mr. Rajesh Khosla serves as the CEO of AGI Greenpac. He brings extensive experience in business development, spanning practical implementation, employee development, financial analysis, and debottlenecking.

Mr. Khosla is the Chairman of EFSI for Telangana & Andhra Pradesh Region and the Sr. Vice President of All India Glass Manufacturing Association. He holds key positions as an elected member of CII State Council, Co-Convenor for Manufacturing Competitiveness Panel, and Regional Executive member of Indian Institute of Packaging. Mr. Khosla’s leadership at AGI Greenpac has streamlined operations and fostered a culture of efficiency within the Container Glass business. With 32 years of corporate experience, his expertise includes global and international businesses, business strategy, mining operations, and marketing.