Bacardi, a family-owned spirits company, has unveiled plans to put “the world’s most sustainable spirits bottle,” in the company’s parlance, on store shelves by 2023. The new 100% biodegradable bottle will replace 80 million plastic bottles – 3,000 tons of plastic – currently produced by Bacardi across its portfolio of brands every year.
Petroleum-based plastics used by Bacardi today will be replaced by Danimer Scientific’s Nodax PHA, a biopolymer which derives from the natural oils of plant seeds such as palm, canola, and soy. While a regular plastic bottle takes over 400 years to decompose, this new bottle will biodegrade in environments such as compost, soil, freshwater and sea water, within 18 months, according to the company.
“Bacardi is not the first alcohol brand trying to find more sustainable packaging solutions for its spirits. It is, however, the first to target polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs),” says Kristin Marshall, senior research associate with Lux Research. “PHAs are higher-cost than incumbent plastics and are not accepted in current recycling streams, but Bacardi is prioritizing fossil-free carbon inputs and is betting that the demand for plastic alternatives and ability to market new materials outweigh such drawbacks. For a truly circular solution, however, Bacardi must work with composting facilities to ensure that its products are not filtered out.”
BACARDÍ rum will be the first spirit to appear in the new bottle, before the plant-based material is rolled out to replace single-use plastic across the entire Bacardi supply chain and the company’s 200 brands and labels.
As well as the new 100% biopolymer spirits bottle, Bacardi is also creating a sustainably sourced paper bottle. By integrating the Nodax PHA polymer, this alternative solution will have equally strong environmental credentials without compromising quality or taste of the beverage.
The new material will also enable the Bacardi packaging development team to address the plastic lining of bottle closures. “It may sound small, but add that up across every bottle produced globally and we’re talking many tons of plastic every day,” says Jean-Marc Jean-Marc Lambert, SVP of global operations for Bacardi. “Once we’ve fixed the problem, we’ll be open sourcing the solution for the entire industry to use. This isn’t about competitive advantage. It’s about doing the right thing for the planet.”
Nodax PHA was verified as a biodegradable alternative to petrochemical plastics by the University of Georgia (UGA) and the UGA New Materials Institute in a 2018 study.