Packaging

The primary function of packaging is to protect the product, maintaining its safety and quality, and ensuring it reaches the consumer in the same condition as when it was first produced and throughout its shelf life.

The soft drinks sector uses a variety of different packaging formats. The main types are listed below:

Glass

Glass is the oldest type of packaging for soft drinks, fruit juices and waters. The advantage of glass packaging is that it is chemically inert and will not affect quality, odour or taste of product. It is strong, rigid and 100% recyclable. For more information: www.britglass.org.uk/

Plastic (mainly polyethylene terephthalate)

PET is a popular choice for packaging because it is lightweight, flexible and recyclable. It can be used for both still and carbonated products. For more information: www.bpf.co.uk/ or www.recoup.org/ 

Cans

Cans, including aluminium and steel, are mainly used for carbonated drinks. They are 100% recyclable and lightweight. Using recycled aluminium to make a new can saves 95% of the energy that would be needed to make a can from virgin materials. For more information: www.mpma.org.uk/ or www.bcme.org/

Beverage cartons

Cartons are a major packaging format for still drinks and fruit juices. They protect the freshness, flavours and nutritional qualities of both fresh and long-life drink products, enabling distribution at ambient temperatures or under refrigerated conditions. They are made from natural renewable resources, are low carbon and now 91% of UK Local Authorities recycle cartons. For more information: www.ace-uk.co.uk/

Related links

Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment (INCPEN)
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Food Standards Agency (FSA)

FAQs

Can I reuse my soft drinks packaging?

As soft drinks are packaged using recyclable materials, consumers are encouraged to recycle empty bottles rather than throwing them away.

Some people find it useful to simply refill an empty bottle for re-use.  However, this is not always advisable as the bottles used to supply soft drinks, including bottled waters and bottles with sports closures, are not intended to be re-used. This is because they are not designed to withstand the washing that would be necessary to maintain acceptable standards of hygiene.

If bottles are required for re-use, bottles designed specifically for that purpose should be obtained and adequate hygiene routines established.

What is Lightweighting?

Lightweighting is a process by which fewer materials are used for packaging; making products lighter and saving energy required for manufacture and distribution.

Lightweighting reduces the dependence on finite resources and as the packaging becomes lighter transport also becomes more efficient. Lighter packs also mean that those items which are not recovered from the waste stream and must be disposed of in landfill sites actually contribute less to the total amount of waste.

Today, the average can uses 35% less aluminium than it did 10 years ago, with steel cans containing 50% less steel and average PET plastic bottles containing 25% less PET.

Why is it important to recycle my soft drinks packaging?

For information about recycling your packaging, please go to our Environment Page

What is the industry doing to reduce packaging waste?

The reduction of packaging waste has always been a primary concern of the soft drinks industry. The industry has consistently been at the forefront of packaging innovations and is constantly looking at ways to reduce the amount of raw materials used in various types of packaging.

For more information on what the industry is doing in this area, please check out our Roadmap page.

UK Soft Drinks Packaging Types, 2015