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Beer packaging: Driving sustainability? Or moving the problem from plastic to deforestation?

Since the monumental shift in public opinion on plastic packaging waste since David Attenborough's Blue Planet II, many retailers and suppliers have made moves to curb their use of plastic e.g. The Tesco beer buying team's decision to not accept any new 4 pack beers with plastic mid cones on them. This has resulted in all brewers dashing to follow suit and make their own announcements as they move away from plastic. Diageo and Guinness are moving to recyclable card, as are Molson Coors with Carling.

My challenge back to this shift from plastic towards recyclable card is, although it is a step in the right direction, are we just shifting the issues away from plastic pollution onto more deforestation? Our forests and jungles around the world are one of the last major lines of defence against rising CO2 levels and rising global temperatures caused by man made pollution. With all major brewers moving away from comparatively light plastic mid cones to card wraps, are they ensuring this card is responsibly sourced with trees being re-planted and replenished?

Looking at other solutions, The Budweiser Brewing Group (formerly ABI) for their Corona brand, have looked at both biodegradable bottle holders, as well as cans that quite brilliantly screw together in a long tube

However, my favourite packaging innovation so far, has been from Carlsberg, who have developed a glue that holds their 4, 6 and 8 packs of beer together, which can be recycled along with their cans. Carlsberg says the changes will reduce plastic waste globally by more than 1,200 tonnes a year. This, for me, is a better solution than simply moving the problem of plastic onto another problem of using more card.

Well done to all brewers that are all looking at ways to make their packaging more sustainable, but for me Carlsberg are currently leading the pack in the UK.

The new Carlsberg ‘snap pack’ that, it is claimed, will cut plastic use by up to 76%. Photograph: Thorbjorn Fessel

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