Traditional disposable plastic beverage containers have many benefits – they are cheap to produce, light in weight, and strong and durable. Compared to glass, plastic bottles provide a much greater level of convenience. The incredible versatility of disposable plastic bottles can be seen in the astonishing size of the market for such containers. According to market research firm Fact.MR, the global disposable plastic bottle industry was expected to exceed $8.3 billion USD in value by the end of 2018.
Despite the popularity of traditional disposable bottles, they have some downsides. Although they can be recycled, the plastics in most bottles degrade with each reuse, meaning the plastic in an individual bottle can only be recycled 6-7 times.
There has been a backlash against disposable packaging products in general in recent years. Although some in the industry have decided that the decreasing popularity of disposable single-use plastic bottles is a threat, as always, there are some entrepreneurs who see opportunity where others see misfortune.
That’s where companies like Petainer enter the scene. The company is one of many that propose to revolutionise the beverage packaging industry using an old idea. In short, Petainer and other companies are betting the future of the packaging industry will focus on refillable plastic bottles made of recycled materials.
The company recently began production of refillable bottles, which can contain up to 25% recycled plastics, at two factories in Sweden and the Czech Republic. The bottles are designed to be filled, sold, and returned up to 20 times. After 20 uses, the PET plastic will have degraded to the point that it will need to be recycled. Despite their limited lifetime, refillable bottles require only 10% the amount of virgin (non-recycled) plastic per filling than traditional single-use bottles.
Although refillable bottles have become more popular in recent years due to legislation encouraging their use in Germany and Norway, it is only in the past couple of years that the technology for manufacturing them using recycled plastic materials has matured.
The bottles have few downsides – the most significant from a marketing perspective is that the bottles are not completely transparent. Due to the increased material thickness required to sustain the structure of the bottle across many uses, the presence of recycled PET in the bottles can result in slight discolouration.
Despite this minor disadvantage, it seems likely that mounting concerns about single-use bottles will lead to more and more countries adopting the reusable PET bottle model.