Industry News

Pepsi and Pulpex are plotting a huge change to how you buy a soft drink — no plastic, no glass.

May 3, 2021 1:13 p.m. PT CNET

Plastic bottles are actually highly recyclable – if we have discipline as consumers and if a processor like China has an appetite for them. Unfortunately both tend not to be the case today. Now what?

“Paper bottles” might be a big part of the answer. They are made from wood pulp, molded into bottle shapes and treated so that they can hold liquids safely and reliably without a plastic liner. At the end of life, they can be recycled like other paper products. But that’s not to say paper bottles don’t face a lot of remaining R&D, especially when it comes to their use for low-cost, mass-market beverages.

PepsiCo is part of a consortium with Pulpex, Unilever and Diageo developing paper bottles. You probably won’t see Pepsi soda in a paper bottle for a couple of years, according to Ron Khan, the company’s VP of beverage packaging, though partner Diageo is moving apace to release a limited trial of Johnnie Walker scotch in a version of the Pulpex paper container.

While the companies work on how the packaging will perform, consumer perception will matter as well. I remember when we made the switch from glass bottles and tin cans to plastic bottles and aluminum cans; it required a major shift of consumer acceptance, though the novelty value of a bottle that didn’t break or a can that seemed to weigh nothing quickly won the day. Paper bottles would need to similarly capture the imagination with their green bona fides.