Ribena, one of Britain’s most recognisable brands, has unveiled a major packaging update to continue its sustainability journey.
The redesign, which has been welcomed by the Recycling Association, features a radically reduced sleeve which will ensure Ribena bottles can be turned back into bottles within the current UK recycling infrastructure and also reduces the amount of plastic used to make each bottle sleeve, saving 202 tonnes of plastic annually.
The move means Ribena becomes the UK’s largest soft drinks brand to use bottles which are made from 100% recycled plastic and 100% bottle-to-bottle recyclable. From January 2021, all 500ml bottles manufactured annually in the UK and Ireland will feature the new design.
Ribena’s brand owner, Suntory Beverage and Food GB and Ireland (SBF GB&I), has invested £1.6m in the bottle redesign, which took two years to complete, as part of its ambition to make plastic packaging completely sustainable by 2030. The company also sees this development as a key step in its ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050, as recycled plastic has a lower carbon footprint than other packaging options such as virgin plastic.
Carol Robert, Chief Operating Officer at SBF GB&I, said, “Making sure that our bottles can be easily recycled and turned back into bottles is an important part of our journey towards full circularity and net zero emissions. Simplifying the packaging of our drinks to help consumers to recycle is just one of our many investments in making our soft drinks more sustainable. From climate-change resilient blackcurrants to promoting biodiversity on our farms, we’re working to make Ribena more sustainable from bush to bottle.”
Dr Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association, said, “We have been highly critical of manufacturers who have not taken responsibility for the full life cycle and recyclability of their products. Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I have been proactive in this space and have developed a fantastic new bottle for their Ribena brand.
“Not only is the bottle made from 100% recycled plastic but the label has been minimised to ensure the bottle can be easily identified, sorted and recycled using standard industry technology. SBF GB&I are doing the right thing and other manufacturers should follow their lead.”
This solves a problem the bottles were facing in the UK’s waste stream. Although Ribena’s bottles have always been recyclable, the sleeve’s dark colour and length could stop sensors at some recycling plants from identifying the clear, recyclable bottle underneath. This could prevent the bottles from being sorted into the waste stream of plastic that can be turned back into bottles.
Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, added, “I am very pleased to see SBF GB&I taking this important step to ensure that all their Ribena bottles are fully recyclable and made from 100% recycled plastic. It is this kind of innovation that we want to see to create a more circular economy for our waste and resources, with more materials being recycled and reused and less being consigned to landfill or incineration.
“Through new powers in our landmark Environment Bill, we will introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers and ensure that companies take more responsibility for the packaging they produce.”
Switching the design of the label involved extensive product testing and investment to ensure that the drink would not be affected by the extra exposure to light while on shelf. Thanks to the new design, consumers can leave the label and cap on the bottle to recycle it, knowing it can have another life as a bottle.
The work that has been done to roll up Ribena’s sleeves will also be applied across Lucozade Sport and Lucozade Energy, two other major drinks made by SBF GB&I, in the next 18 months, ultimately saving 1,100 tonnes of plastic each year.
The bottle redesign for Ribena caps off a big year in which SBF GB&I has invested in a paper straw trial for Ribena cartons, harvested the first crop of climate-change resistant blackcurrants following a £10m research project with the James Hutton Institute, and through its parent company Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, announced a major breakthrough in enzymatic plastic recycling.