Zero Waste Alliance Ireland
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
We thought that Green Guinness was only a St Patrick’s day stunt, but now a greener Guinness seems to be popping up. That’s what the recent Diageo announcement indicates. The Guinness brewer announced yesterday it is removing plastic rings from its beer packaging in the coming months.
What is being replaced exactly?
While the announcement is welcome and it points Guinness firmly in a Zero Waste direction we think it could be more ambitious. Plastic ring carriers and shrink wrap will be removed from consumer multipacks of Diageo’s beer products – Guinness, Harp, Rockshore and Smithwick’s. The wrappers will be replaced with 100pc recyclable and biodegradable cardboard.
The multi-can packs will be replaced by cardboard packs. The new packaging will be on the shelves in Ireland from August. The UK and other markets will follow the Zero Waste trajectory later in 2020.
Zero Wasters will all welcome this announcement to reduce plastic packaging. We know these type of ring wrapping it is lethal to birds, animals and fish. It’s a positive first move on the right path …towards Zero Waste. Let’s hope they take a few more steps in the same direction. Sean Cronin, ZWAI Director
Last year’s EPA’s waste characterisation study showed that plastic is now the largest waste type collected from households, comprising 17pc of waste and it’s increasing. So this helps to turn the tide and make our litter less lethal. But is it enough?
ZWAI prioritises waste avoidance & prevention over other waste management options and therefore we welcome industry initiatives that reduce plastic packaging on products. But we’d much prefer they were eliminated entirely. So let’s hope Diageo rethinks this initiative and gets bolder and more ambitious.
Ambition needs boosting
Diageo states that under 5% of its total packaging is plastic and this change will reduce plastic usage by over 400 tonnes annually. But it does not tell us just what % of the overall plastic waste these rings and wraps represent. The bulk of wrapping is used at the distribution and trucking activities. large crates of can six packs and slabs come in large wrapping sheets. These are not being changed. They represent a large % of the plastic waste. They need to address this aspect also and not just the consumer-facing wrapping.
Replace distribution pallet wrapping by compostible wrap sheets or crates (timber or hard reusable cardboard). This is a big volume compared to consumer wrapping.
Promote the purchase of loose cans and bottles. Make a reusable collapsible cardboard box for purchasing loose cans and bottles. You know the type, like the long lasting plastic bag replacement. They could brand this and get good PR from it. Give these away free to start with and get people using them to buy ‘loose’ cans. They can put other beer products in them also. This worked for rigid coffee cups with the introduction of the eCupán.
photo courtesy unsplash
What else Diageo might consider on their Zero Waste drive.
Longer term they need to address the cans and bottles issue. They need to force through a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and take back their own cans and bottles. (Breweries in Toronto do this since 2007 when the province introduced the Ontario Deposit Return Program) Diageo can reward their customers with refunds or loyalty schemes for participating.
If they are taking back their wrapping and containers via REPAK why not be ambitious and bring along a GUINNESS RETURNS programme. Standardise their container sizes, deliver them in reusable boxes and crates and take them all back when empty. If any company can lead the way on this GUINNESS has the capability. No need to wait for laggard Government action on a DRS. Just go for it GUINNESS.
We’ll all drink to that. Cheers!