Sustainable cap connections in the beverage industry
Sustainability remains at the forefront of the development of glass and PET bottles, drink cartons and cans. The demands placed on packaging by consumers and legislators vary depending on material, but all fall under this overarching, dominant topic. Caps that are firmly attached to the bottle or carton (for single-use plastics), reduced use of material (lightweight glass bottles) and increased use of recycled material (rPET) are important goals, and will continue to be in future. Let’s take a look at current projects.
When it comes to developing beverage cartons, the beverage carton industry currently appears to be focusing primarily on caps. This comes as no surprise – after all, the EU Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive requires all single-use beverage packaging to be supplied with an attached cap by July 2024 so that the cap can be disposed of and recycled with the rest of the pack. The EU directive focuses on the environmental aspect of introducing tethered caps. But does this actually reflect the desires of consumers as well? According to a study commissioned by Sidel and conducted by Ales Research, in which consumers were asked to rate the attractiveness, functionality and environmental impact of caps attached to the bottle, sustainability is not the consumers’ main concern. Instead, the 3,200 European adults surveyed primarily valued the product safety and user friendliness. 87% of the participants did agree that plastic waste harms the environment and bottle caps contribute to this. However, only a small portion (26%) felt that attached caps would really help prevent plastic pollution. The survey concluded that the cap’s convenience and ease-of-use advantages are considered the most important criterion.
When developing caps that are attached to the packaging, leading manufacturers of beverage cartons and bottles are doing everything they can to offer customers from the beverage industry suitable solutions so that they can implement the EU requirements in time. There are already various options.
Ahead of the times: Tethered cap solutions with a robust double-hinge solution
At the start of May 2021, SIG announced that they would launch carton packaging with caps that remain firmly attached to the packaging even after opening on the European market as early as the second half of 2021 – well ahead of the deadline of July 2024 set by the EU. According to the company, the new caps are compatible with the existing filling machines and cap applicators from SIG. Compatible with existing SIG filling machines and applications, SIG tethered caps can be recycled with the carton packs.
Convenient cap for consumers
The SIG tethered cap solutions use a robust double-hinge solution, which the company claims has turned out to be very suitable for consumers. When the packaging is opened for pouring, the cap can be fixed in the desired position by pressing it down until it clicks into place. This allows consumers to pour from the packaging conveniently without the cap getting in the way or having to hold onto it with their fingers. To close the packaging, the cap is lifted slightly and then closed as usual. Once the packaging is empty, the cap and packaging can then be recycled together. For customers who choose Signature solutions, the tethered caps are made from polymers that are 100% linked to renewable, wood-based raw materials via a certified mass balance system – as are the polymers in the packaging itself.
Pure-TwistFlip – new closing solution
Competitor Elopak also has its sights firmly set on caps for beverage cartons and is launching innovative tethered caps solutions well before the mandatory introduction in summer 2024. The manufacturer presented its new Pure-TwistFlip tethered cap solution at the start of June 2021: The sealing cap remains reliably connected to the packaging throughout its entire service life. The cartons can be recycled together with the complete cap. According to the company, this is also the manufacturer’s lightest screw cap to date – which further reduces plastic consumption. All of this makes the Pure-TwistFlip a solution for brands that want to meet the growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging without sacrificing convenience or product integrity, the manufacturer claims. The new lid is compatible with all of the company’s Pure-Pak beverage cartons.
Weight reduction – the credo for developing new glass beverage bottles
While the engineers developing new PET bottles or beverage cartons are currently concentrating on innovative caps, the experts in the development of innovative glass bottles are continuing to focus on reducing weight by saving material. This is not an easy task; the carbonation of beers or lemonades, for example, places particular demands on stability. Additional external factors also act on the bottle during filling or transport.
Cap solutions are currently the main focus in the development of beverage cartons and PET containers. In light of the EU directive, which stipulates the use of caps permanently attached to the bottle by July 2024, the packaging industry has done its homework and is offering its customers a wide variety. Depending on the provider, they can be attached to the existing, flexible filling lines with only minor adjustments.
Lower material usage and the associated weight reductions remain the dominant theme in the development of glass bottles. Engineers are continuing to walk a fine line between weight reduction and stability. The construction of lightweight returnable glass bottles, which have a longer life cycle and are exposed to more intensive loads in processes such as logistics and production, proves to be particularly challenging. The goal of using PET bottles is still achieving a closed-loop economy. While the proportion of recycled PET has been gradually increased in recent years, beverage manufacturers are gradually switching to using only recycled PET to manufacture their bottles. The respective contents are no longer a limiting factor. Thanks to sophisticated coating technologies, it is now even possible to fill 100 percent recycled PET with sensitive beverages such as juices or milk. The goal is therefore to achieve a closed-loop economy as soon as possible.
Would you like to find out about current trends on the beverage market and exchange professional information? Then we invite you to take part in the next drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 12 to 16, 2022.