Spirits maker Bacardi will bottle all brands in a biodegradable material from plant-based oils, entering the race to replace petroleum-based plastic drink bottles.
The bottles will be on shelves in 2023 and replace 80 million traditional plastic bottles annually, starting with Bacardi rum and expanding across the company’s 200 brands, which include Grey Goose vodka and Patrón tequila.
While crude oil-based plastic bottles take hundreds of years to decompose, the Bacardi spirits bioplastic bottles will degrade completely without leaving behind microplastics in 1.5 years in environments including compost, soil, and fresh and sea water.
Bacardi, with a goal of going plastic free 10 years from now, is also creating a paper-based bottle. As consumers prefer more sustainable packaging, alcohol manufacturers and other beverage companies face pressure to meet plastic-reduction goals, turning to collaborations on a variety of alternative materials, such as paper-based bottles planned by Diageo and PepsiCo, and water bottles from a wood harvesting byproduct for Nestlé Waters North America.
Bacardi is working with Danimer Scientific to create bottles from its polymer called Nodax PHA, derived from oils from seeds of plants including palm, canola and soy. The bioplastic is used already for thermoformed trays, drinking straws, multilayer flexible film packaging, coatings and disposable cutlery.
Bacardi plans to share the bottle technology with competitors. One persistent puzzle for the beverage industry has been replacing traditional, slow-degrading plastic liners in caps and lids. Even those closure linings will decompose 100% with the Bacardi bottles.
The liner fix seems small, but the required plastic adds up to many tons a day for all bottles produced globally, says Jean-Marc Lambert, senior vice president, global operations for Bacardi.
“Once we’ve fixed the problem, we’ll be open sourcing the solution for the entire industry to use,” Lambert says. “This isn’t about competitive advantage.”
Fulfilling another sustainability commitment, Bacardi also will remove more single-use plastic, including gift box and point-of-sale materials, in the next three years.