Bacardi to move to 100% biodegradable bottle

Bacardi has today released plans to put “the world’s most sustainable spirits bottle on the shelf by 2023” with the launch of a package that will biodegrade in 18 months.  

The new 100% biodegradable bottle will replace 80 million plastic bottles – representing 3,000 tons of plastic – currently produced by Bacardi across its portfolio of brands every year. 

This move by Bacardi has been made possible due to its collaboration with Danimer Scientific, a developer and manufacturer of biodegradable products.

Petroleum-based plastics used by Bacardi today will be replaced by Danimer Scientific’s Nodax™ PHA, a biopolymer which derives from the natural oils of plant seeds such as palm, canola and soy.

While a regular plastic bottle takes over 400 years to decompose, the new spirits bottle made from Nodax™ PHA will biodegrade in a wide range of environments, including compost, soil, freshwater and sea water, and after 18 months disappear without leaving behind harmful microplastics, according to the manufacturer.

Bacardi rum will be the first spirit to appear in the new bottle, before the plant-based material is rolled out to replace single-use plastic across the entire Bacardi supply chain and the company’s 200 brands and labels including Bombay Saphire gin, Grey Goose vodka, Patrón tequila, Martini vermouth and Dewar’s Scotch whisky.

As well as the new 100% biopolymer spirits bottle, Bacardi is also creating “a sustainably-sourced paper bottle”, by integrating the Nodax™ PHA polymer.

Jean-Marc Lambert, senior vice president, global operations for Bacardi, said: “When we set ourselves the goal of being 100% plastic free by 2030, we knew that it would take ground-breaking advances in packaging design to make it achievable, and that’s exactly what’s happening through our partnership with Danimer.”

Thanks to the new material, the Bacardi packaging development team will also crack one of the beverage industry’s longest-standing plastic problems – the plastic lining of bottle closures.

“It may sound small,” says Jean-Marc, “but add that up across every bottle produced globally and we’re talking many tons of plastic every day. Once we’ve fixed the problem, we’ll be open sourcing the solution for the entire industry to use.” 

Bacardi added that today’s announcement represents a major step towards the company achieving its goal of being 100% plastic-free in the next 10 years.

As well as launching the new biopolymer bottle in 2023, the company has also committed to removing all its non-essential, single-use plastic, including all plastic gift box materials and plastic point-of-sale materials, in the next three years.

Nodax™ PHA was verified as a truly biodegradable alternative to petrochemical plastics by the University of Georgia (UGA) and the UGA New Materials Institute in a 2018 study.

Danimer Scientific currently uses the material for a wide range of applications, including thermoformed trays, drinking straws, flexible and multi-layer film packaging, coatings, disposable cutlery, and more.

While this move is a highly commendable development using an advanced, naturally-sourced alternative to oil-based plastic, one should not assume that all bioplastics are better for the environment.

Indeed, a scientific study published in August this year showed that “most bioplastics and plant-based materials contain toxic chemicals”.

The study also found that “bio-based/biodegradable materials and conventional plastics are similarly toxic” (Lisa Zimmermann, et al., Environment International, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106066).

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