Glass and plastic bottles, aluminium cans, juice boxes, plastic film packaging and cardboard boxes: the beverage industry uses many different kinds of packaging. Producers of soft drinks, waters, juices, and beers, as well as importers and traders of wine and spirits are hard at work to make their packaging practices more sustainable, individually and together via their industry bodies.
Trends and challenges
The main developments affecting packaging in the beverage industry are:
- Society's reluctance to use plastic packaging materials. It is difficult for consumers to determine whether one type of packaging is more sustainable than another. Therefore, it makes sense to take the consumer's perception into account when designing a package. Read here how consumers deal with information on sustainability in relation to packaging. Do not use unnecessary packaging materials, but put the functionality of the packaging first; is the product sufficiently protected? Look at the environmental impact of the packaging, for example by performing a life cycle analysis (LCA) you can calculate the environmental impact of your packaging.
- Ambitions of governments and companies to introduce reusable and recyclable packaging. Packaging must comply with the applicable laws and regulations. In recent years, the European Commission and the Dutch government have introduced new proposals, adopted directives and are implementing action programmes, among other things to increase the recyclability and reuse of packaging and to reduce the amount of waste. Keep informed of these developments so that you can respond to future legislation in a timely manner and thereby distinguish your company from other companies as a frontrunner in the field of sustainability. KIDV maintains an overview of changes in legislation and regulations, such as the new recycling targets, adjustments to the essential requirements for packaging and the approach to single-use plastics, and translates these developments into practice for packaging. This overview can be found here (only available in Dutch).
KIDV has also developed recycle checks with which companies can assess for themselves whether a package is recyclable under the current system. These can be found here.
- The European directive for single-use plastics sets requirements for single-use plastic beverage packaging. As of July 2024, one-way beverage packaging may only be placed on the market if lids and caps remain attached during use. In addition, as of July 2021, there is a market restriction on the use of EPS for beverage packaging intended for on-the-go consumption. Click here for more information on this and other measures regarding single use plastics (only available in Dutch).
- Political developments regarding deposits on drinks packaging in the Netherlands.
From July 2021, a new deposit system is in place in The Netherlands for small plastic bottles. There is a €0.15 deposit on small plastic bottles of soft drinks and water. These bottles can be recognised by the new deposit logo. Click here for more information (only available in Dutch).
- Using recycled plastic in packaging.
The use of recycled packaging material is already common for glass and metal. For plastics, this is still sometimes difficult, especially when the recycled plastic is used in new food packaging, because of the strict food safety requirements. However, we do see many examples of recycled PET being used in the drinks sector. Read more about the use of recycled plastic here (only available in Dutch).
- Using biobased plastic in packaging.
There are different types of biobased plastics. Some biobased plastics have the same molecular structure as fossil-based plastics. These can be mixed with fossil plastics in the recycling process and have the same properties, such as melting temperature or air permeability. An example of this is bio-PE, which is made from sugar cane and is used, for example, in HDPE bottles. There are also plastics made from renewable raw materials that have a different molecular structure than conventional, fossil-based plastics. As a result, they also have other properties; some variants are compostable, for example. Examples are PLA and starch. PLA is used in trays and foils, and starch in plastic bags. There are also new materials that are not compostable, such as PEF. PEF has comparable properties to PET, but it is certainly not identical and therefore cannot just be mixed with PET. PEF is still under development, but could be suitable for bottles. Read more about biobased and compostable packaging here.
- Transport in bulk packaging before products are packaged in portions.
Sustainable packaging is not only about sustainable use of materials; sustainable choices can also be made in other steps of the process. From an environmental and efficiency point of view, it can sometimes be more profitable to transport drinks in bulk packaging and only bottle them in the country of sale. This happens in some cases in the wine sector.
The shift to bulk packaging or larger packaging is also seen in the consumer market. The home tap for beers, for example, is becoming increasingly popular at parties. The bag-in-box for wines is still less common in the Netherlands than in France, for example, although we are seeing them more and more often. In this way, less packaging material is needed for the same quantity of beer or wine (per unit of product).
An older example is the post-mix for soft drinks, which is often used in catering establishments. The soft drink syrup is then mixed with carbonated water on site, which means less water and less packaging weight needs to be transported. Home soft drinks machines are also being introduced to make your own carbonated drink.
Getting started with sustainable packaging
Anyone who starts working with sustainable packaging will often quickly discover that there is more to it than just using less or different material. To develop successful sustainable packaging, you have to look at the packaging process and logistics, at customers’ purchasing and disposal behaviour, and at your company’s packaging and sustainability strategy. For more information and tips, visit KIDV Five Perspectives on Sustainable Packaging.
Various industry bodies representing the beverage industry have drawn up a 2019-2022 Sector Innovation Plan for Sustainable Packaging(only available in Dutch) in close cooperation with KIDV. These plans set out ambitions, objectives, and concrete measures to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, such as by using less material in packaging and by making packaging fully recyclable and reusable.
- Sector Innovation Plan - Soft drinks, Waters, and Juices (FWS) (only available in Dutch)
- Sector Innovation Plan - Wine (Stichting Wijnfonds and KNVW) (only available in Dutch)
- Sector Innovation Plan - Spirits (SpiritsNL) (only available in Dutch)
- Sector Innovation Plan - Dutch Breweries (Brouwers NL) (only available in Dutch)
KIDV: knowledge, advice and services
KIDV offers knowledge, advice, and services to manufacturers and importers of packaged products and packaging. KIDV will keep you up to date of all current developments, trends, and laws and legislation and how they apply to you.
For tailored advice, KIDV organises various different kinds of sessions, in which all these topics will be addressed and parts or all of your packaging portfolio will be examined. We can organise these sessions with employees from various departments of your own organisation, with industry peers, and/or with suppliers. KIDV also offers basic and professional training sessions on packaging. With the KIDV Recycle Checks for different materials, you can self-assess your packaging to see whether they can be recycled.