Britvic develops sustainable wood fibre bottle

Major soft drinks firm Britvic has made major strides in its bid to develop a viable bottle from sustainable wood fibres, the company's latest sustainability report has claimed.

The owner of household name brands such as Robinsons squash, J20 and Fruit Shoot has concluded proof-of-concept tests in a three-year collaboration with Innovate UK and British SME Natural Resources to create fully-recyclable packaging from sustainably sourced, renewable wood fibre materials.

The technology platform, using patent-pending moulding and processing techniques, is expected to be rolled out across multiple sectors. Britvic states that the research process into fibre and pulp has provided “essential information” for the firm to explore future alternative packaging solutions.

Britvic chief supply chain officer Clive Hooper said: “At Britvic, we know that to be a successful business in the long term we must be a sustainable business and this means listening to the needs of our consumers, our customers, our communities, and our employees.

“We understand that packaging and the environmental impact of waste is a major concern and we’re committed to working collaboratively with others to explore innovative solutions. The wood fibre bottle is a great example of what potentially can be done and its development has provided great insight into what will and won’t work in terms of quality standards and mass production in the future. We’re now working hard to take our learnings from the fibre bottle to investigate fibre-based sustainable packaging materials further.”

Good progress

The packaging innovation forms part of the FTSE 250 firm’s £240m supply chain investment programme to maximise efficiency across its manufacturing sites, reduce waste and improve its environmental footprint.

Britvic’s new 2016 sustainability report shows that water efficiency has improved thanks to upgraded equipment and processing, with a reduction in total water consumption of 0.4% despite a 0.7% increase in production volumes.

Meanwhile, a new high-speed bottling line at the Leeds plant has led to a 22% fall in water use and a 45% drop in energy consumption relative to production volumes. The £25m investment has allowed Britvic to create lighter bottles, reducing the amount of plastic packaging needed each year by 155 tonnes.

Britvic’s commitment to reduce waste saw the firm send zero-waste-to-landfill in the UK last year. The company also maintained a recycling rate of almost 92% despite waste generation increasing as a result of manufacturing site upgrades.

Britvic chief executive Simon Litherland said: “Whilst this report highlights the good progress we’ve made, we know that to be the business we want to be – the most creative, dynamic and trusted soft drinks business in the world – we must continue our journey, addressing the global challenges we face whilst creating shared long-term value for all our stakeholders.”

Innovative solutions

New figures show that the world’s largest soft drinks brands have taken a “woeful lack of action” on recycling, with the top six firms using a combined average of just 6.6% recycled plastic in their bottles. Nevertheless, Britvic’s wood-fibre technology reflects a growing trend among industry-leading businesses to examine the potential for innovative, sustainable forms of packaging.

Carlsberg launched a similar project to develop the world’s first fully biodegradable wood-fibre beer bottle as part of its Carlsberg Circular Community (CCC) initiative. Computer firm Dell, meanwhile, last month achieved a new first for the technology industry, after converting waste plastic found on beaches and in waterways into new packaging for one of its laptop products.

And Swedish food processing and packaging company Tetra Pak has created a new bio-based package, designed with a cap and top made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) derived from sugarcane, which will have a plant-based renewable content of more than 80%.

George Ogleby

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