Brewers & Alcohol Packaging Self-Regulation & Commitments

Diageo to Remove Plastic from Guinness Multipacks

Drinks firm will replace holders with 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard packs

Plastic can holders and shrinkwrap are to be removed from multipacks of Guinness, its owner, Diageo, will announce on Monday.

Diageo is phasing out plastic packaging from multipacks of its Guinness, Harp, Rockshore and Smithwick’s beers and replacing it with 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard packs.

The new packaging will appear on shelves in Ireland in August, followed by the UK and other international markets in 2020. Individual cans are already fully recyclable, including the widget inside cans of Draught Guinness that creates its creamy head.

Diageo said it is investing £16m to reduce the amount of plastic used in its beer packaging as part of a drive to create more sustainable packaging in the war against single-use plastics. Less than 5% of its packaging is plastic and the company said the move would further reduce usage by more than 400 tonnes annually, the equivalent of 40m 50cl plastic bottles.

“For 260 years Guinness has played a vital role in the communities around us,” said Mark Sandys, the global head of beer at Diageo. “We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St James’s Gate [in Dublin] and we are now leading the way in sustainable packaging. This is good news for the brand, for our wider beer portfolio and for the environment.”

Plastic pack rings, known in the industry as hi-cones or yokes, are connected rings used to hold together multipacks of canned drinks, particularly beers. A standard packaging device for more than 50 years, they have become an environmental scourge by contributing to growing ocean plastic pollution and posing a threat to marine life.

Last year, in a quest to find an alternative, Carlsberg announced plans to replace the rings with recyclable glue. It is phasing in a “snap pack”, which it said will reduce the amount of plastic used in traditional multipacks by as much as 76%. In the UK the change will initially involve Carlsberg Export but the company said the pack will eventually be used across its entire drinks portfolio, including Tuborg and San Miguel.

Meanwhile, the beer brand Corona has started piloting plastic-free six-pack rings made from plant-based biodegradable fibres. They will be introduced in its home market of Tulum, Mexico, followed by the UK.

Plastic waste has become a pressing issue, with TV programmes such as Blue Planet II exposing its impact on the oceans. Regular warnings are also made about the dangers of a global plastic binge.

Dr Sue Kinsey, a senior pollution policy officer with the Marine Conservation Society, said: “These kinds of can yokes are regularly found in small numbers on our beach cleans. During last year’s Great British Beach Clean we found around 100 over one weekend. They are a hazard to wildlife, which can get entangled in them. Any steps taken to stop the flow of plastics to our oceans are to be welcomed.”

David Cutter, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer and president, global supply and procurement, added: “Great packaging is essential for our products. Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three.

“We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly and I’m thrilled with this outcome for Guinness and our other global beer brands.”


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