Coca-Cola testing a paper-based bottle

Originally published at: Coca-Cola testing a paper-based bottle | Boing Boing


I lived in Portugal in the late '90s, and there they reused glass bottles.

It was strange and cool to see Fanta, 7Up and Coke bottles from the '70s, '80s and '90s with differing logos and differing styles of bottles all standing shoulder to shoulder.

I wish I had a photo of it. The bottles had the branding printed directly onto the glass and they were all careworn and chipped. It was beautiful to see.


I wonder if they’ll have to decrease the amount of carbonation in the drink even more in paper bottles.

I remember when I was a kid getting the giant glass bottles of Vernor’s, and if you poured them into a glass you had to let it stand for a minute because with all the carbonation you couldn’t breathe near it. So fizzy. Now you can only get it in plastic bottles, with much lower carbonation levels. It’s a very different experience.


Wow. I had forgotten about this. I remember this too, soda being much fizzier and having to keep away for a bit.


I’m in the packaging industry and my opinion is that this is greenwashing. Their prototype bottle is a PCR bottle with a paper label on it, basically. I’m willing to bet that they reduced the wall thickness of a PCR bottle and wrapped it in paper for structure instead of ribbing the bottle the way you would a hot fill bottle (a great example of a hot fill bottle is Power-aid or another energy drink bottle with structural panels to prevent plastic shrinking with temperature shifts). There are lots of companies that are currently making bottles out 100% PCR and even more that are further along in finding a green solution. The real challenge to a paper bottle will be whether or not the bottle can withstand the torque from the capping machine when filled at speed. It looks like they had to add that hefty PCR neck finish to keep the capping machine from tearing the bottle in half.

Packaging and how we get stuff into stuff is fascinating! I’m happy to share my experience with anyone if anyone has any questions.



My understanding from the articles I read weeks ago is that they are utilizing PCR for now, but the ambition would be to go 100% paper in the next generation. What I was wondering is what “paper” fiber they’re using. I’m packaging-industry adjacent and have been paying attention to the potential in alternative fiber packaging with interest and bagasse (sugar cane fiber) seems like it has some amazing potential, which makes me wonder what they’re relying on for this project. I would assume it will be virtually all new material just to get the strength necessary for filling, but I’m also hoping they’re looking at more sustainable byproduct options. Any insight?


Will the bottles be made from sustainable fiber or just another rainforest?


Up until the mid-1970s, that was true for the US as well, and Coke bottles were stamped on the bottom with their originating bottling plant. We’d return them to the store for deposit, and they’d be washed and reused by the bottling plant. No bottles littering the roads, since you were throwing away money. Some states (Michigan and California especially) have bottle deposits now for single-use containers, and I wish more would follow suit.


Even later in some parts. My family farm in Missouri hosts a Christian summer camp (yeah, I know…) and until at least the mid-80s we had a bottle recycling rack behind the canteen. And some brands like Barq’s and that orange soda (Squirt?) used them for a while longer.


I haven’t seen any alternative fiber packaging that is anywhere close to manufacturing ready. There are alternative resins that are already viable alternatives to PET. But alternatives are at least 10x more expensive than PE resin and the margins in food are so small that it makes a recyclable alternative an impossible alternative. The biggest advances that I’m seeing are in flexible packaging. It may not be eliminating plastics but shifting more of the food industry from rigid to flexible containers would eliminate tons of carbon caused by freight.


Bah! Milk’s been putting their stuff in paper containers for decades now. Welcome to the party, everyone else!

Note: milk cartons take more energy to make than plastic ones. Also aren’t recycled even as little as plastic is. Just saying.

But I get my milk from a local dairy in glass bottles. Once emptied, they’re shipped back, cleaned, sterilized, and reused. Glass takes way more energy to make, but way less energy to reuse. So it’s probably all a wash energy wise, but landfill wise, bottle is the right solution.


Soooo…rainforest it is, then?

I want to heart your reply, but there isn’t a broken one.


You can’t pressurize a carton. The flat sides will deform under pressure without some sort of structural support. Vita Coco has been making the closest thing to a carton that could be pressurized but the seams will never be able to withstand the carbonation.


I think my final answer was “use glass,” which definitely gets around the pressurization issue. :slight_smile:


Full carbon tax (with a first gen subsidy to get things rolling) is the only effective way to get these things to change. Such a tax would need to take into account all the externalities usually left out of the picture, we would likely end up with glass, aluminum, and probably bamboo containers. I wouldn’t count out dried gourds either, but maybe not for coca-cola :wink:


I can’t imagine why you’d worry about genuine motivation vs green washing. As long as it’s genuinely effective at reducing plastic in our environment without some crazy carbon cost, who cares what motivated the business.

1 Like

That’s fine for some things but what about all of the things we don’t have replacements for? Like the plastics out cars are made out of? Or our computers, portable devices, etc etc. we need to encourage innovation and spending on innovation more than a carbon tax. Incentives are almost always more effective than disincentives.

1 Like

The giant problem with glass is that there are almost no glass furnaces in the US anymore. Virtually all of our glass production comes from India, Pakistan, and China. Also, glass costs a ton to move around the country pushing the cost of glass out of reach for most manufacturers. We have this problem all the time: customers come in with a great juice or beverage idea and they want a glass bottle but the price of glass is WAY outside of their budget. Glass is only affordable if you are ordering by the truckload. The problem there is that the distribution model that used to keep glass affordable has been eroded by years of industry consolidation.


It isn’t reducing plastic. It is a plastic bottle with a paper wrapper. They are years away from being able to produce a 100% paper bottle.


I’m old enough to remember those days. My cousin and I earned $20 one time just gathering up old glass bottles around my grandfather’s farm in the late '70s and returning them for the deposit. Besides the cost of shipping glass, and the lower cost of plastics, another thing that killed bottle return was that the washing/sterilizing process didn’t always get everything. My mom found a mole cricket in a bottle of RC cola one time. The company offered her a free case of RC for her troubles (she declined). I’m sure other folks sued over finding bugs in their drinks, whether the bugs found their way into the bottles themselves, or people were working a scam.