Sustainable packaging: Going green with paper bottles

As consumer awareness of sustainability continues to grow, green packaging will remain a key story throughout 2011. Despite many consumers nowadays being more price-sensitive, many do still pay attention to packaging and the message that it communicates.

Price and perceived value may remain central to decision making in the future, but the way packaging can convey the green credentials of a brand can go a long way in the marketing mix.

Green packaging is also becoming a very important feature in the global competitive environment. This is because, despite being poorer, consumers are becoming better educated and at the same time more demanding. It is also because sustainability and investment in green packaging is beneficial for the manufacturer as it brings lower transportation costs and savings in terms of energy and industrial waste.

Paper bottles in the US

In 2008, US packaging company Ecologic Brands launched a new packaging format for milk which contains two parts: the primary packaging is made from 100% recyclable cardboard, which is compostable or biodegradable if thrown away. The secondary packaging is an inner pouch, made using up to 70% less plastic than other plastic pouches.

The company is a partner of Straus Family Creamery, a manufacturer of organic milk. This product should appeal to its target audience of environmentally-conscious consumers as well as those who generally like to try out new products and packaging innovations. From the beginning of 2010, these bottles were available at select Whole Foods stores in Northern California.

Ecologic Brands’ paper bottle

GreenBottle in the UK

A couple of years ago a trial version of the paper GreenBottle appeared in Asda shops in Lowestoft. It proved to be very successful and, following a few improvements, at the beginning of 2011 started to appear more widely in Asda outlets.

The bottle’s shape is similar to that of a traditional HDPE bottle, but the outer shell is made from paper which can then be recycled, or if left will decompose within a matter of weeks. The inner liner, which takes up less than 0.5% the space of a plastic bottle if dumped in landfill, prevents the liquid from reaching the paper outer shell.

There has been no news regarding the use of this packaging format by other retail chains. Presumably, market players are monitoring the situation and the success of the product in Asda stores.


360 Paper Water Bottle

Created by the design company Brandimage, the 360 Paper Water Bottle is an innovative, single-serve water bottle made from 100% renewable material, more specifically bamboo or palm leaves. Made with 90-95% reduction of polymer, the single-serve water bottle is made from two pieces which are fused together by a micro-thin PLA (polylactic acid) which provides a barrier between the liquid and air.

Rather than being unscrewed, the lid is pulled off and separated. One half becomes a drinking vessel which is plug-fitted into the bottle to keep the bottle dust-free. The other half is attached to a finger loop and is used to re-seal the bottle.

This bottle was not created at the request of brand manufacturers. A group of designers decided to create something which would support sustainability and at the same time have an interesting design, would be convenient to use, also supporting on-the-go consumption, and thus attractive to both manufacturers and consumers.

The company claims that numerous brand manufacturers have shown considerable interest in the bottle, although there is no specific information about particular brands or manufacturers. Brandimage claims that this bottle is suitable for different kinds of liquids, including water, juice, smoothies and many others.

Brandimage’s 360 paper water bottle

What’s next for paper bottles?

Manufacturers are starting to go green and launch new innovative packaging solutions. However, it is worth noting that the majority of eco-friendly solutions are created by small companies or eco-activists, and rarely appear as mass packaging formats.

Of course, this does not mean that packaging giants like Tetra Pak, Rexam or Owens-Illinois for example, are not put seeking to invest in and develop eco-friendly, sustainable packaging. However, the new packaging developments of these larger players are likely to overshadow those of smaller players. Realistically, when will any mega brand appear in a 360 Paper Bottle?