Its bottling and packaging plant in Northern Ireland will be the first site that will be up-and-running with the new packs, with Diageo investing €9.25 million in its East Belfast facility out of a total investment of €18.5 million. Diageo’s Belfast facility plays an important role in the bottling and packaging of the company’s beer products which are exported around the world.
The new packs will be on-shelf on all beer brands on the Island of Ireland from August this year and from Summer 2020 in Great Britain and the remaining export markets.
Under 5% of Diageo’s total packaging is plastic at present and this change will further reduce Diageo’s plastic usage by over 400 tonnes annually, equivalent to removing 40 million 500ml plastic bottles from the world, which, if laid out in a row, would reach from London to Beijing (8,136km).
The multi-can packs will be replaced by 100% recyclable and biodegradable sustainably-sourced cardboard packs.
Individual cans are fully recyclable including the widget contained inside cans of Draught Guinness.
Stressing the importance of managing its environmental impact “for the planet and for the financial sustainability of our business” Diageo Ireland’s Country Director Oliver Loomes said, “We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St James’s Gate and we’re now leading the way in sustainable packaging.
In January 2018 a European Commission Plastic Strategy proposed new legislation that would ensure all plastic packaging on the European market can be reused and recycled by 2030.
A survey by Nielsen late last year revealed that almost half (48%) of Irish shoppers either actively seek products with minimal packaging, with 46% actively seeking products in recyclable packaging or actively seeking products with no packaging.
Nielsen’s research found that almost 90% of respondents claimed to actively recycle all the plastic packaging they could, with 78% saying they worried about the effect their grocery packaging has on the environment.
The vast majority of Irish shoppers also believed that responsibility lay with the retailers. 88% of respondents believe that there’s too much plastic packaging being used unnecessarily and 91% believed retailers should do more to reduce the amount of packaging used on grocery products.
Nielsen also found that Irish shoppers also believe the Government has a role to play, with 75% of those surveyed agreeing the government should intervene to introduce fees or restrictions on producers for the use of plastics.
“Shoppers’ needs are changing and concerns over sustainability and the impact that current consumption behaviour is having on the environment is only gaining momentum,” said Claire Cullen, Ireland Head of Analytics at Nielsen, “The reality is that today, the initiatives designed to address plastic pollution are being led by only a minority of companies and there is much more that retailers and brands can do to better connect with consumers on this issue.”
By 2025 Diageo hopes to ensure that 100% of its plastic use is widely recyclable (or reusable/compostable) using plastics that allow for increased consumer recycling rates. It also plans to achieve a 40% average recycled content in its plastic bottles, rising to 100% by 2030.