IN ITS website, beer maker Carlsberg presented its paper bottle for its world famous beer. Called the Green Fibre Bottle, it is said to be made from sustainably sourced wood fibers. It is claimed to be both 100 percent bio-based and fully recyclable. A quick Google search reveals that sustainably sourced wood comes from forests which are managed to protect eco-systems, watersheds, wildlife and the trees themselves.

Carlsberg says that the paper bottle is part their sustainable packaging innovation journey and a key part of its sustainability program "Together Towards ZERO," including its commitment to ZERO carbon emissions at its breweries and a 30 percent reduction in its full-value-chain carbon footprint by 2030.

The paper bottles have an inner barrier to allow the bottles to contain beer. One prototype uses a thin recycled PET polymer film barrier, and the other a 100 percent bio-based PEF polymer film barrier. These prototypes will be used to test the barrier technology as Carlsberg seeks a solution to achieving its ultimate ambition of a 100 percent bio-based bottle without polymers.

So, is paper bottle better than glass as far as the environment is concerned? A full blown life cycle analysis will provide a scientific basis for this comparison, but let me give my initial reaction nonetheless. For me, the current bottle-deposit system is better. Re-using glass bottles several times and recycling them after their end-of-life is more eco-friendly. This system requires less raw materials and energy which means less carbon footprint as well.

Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Paper on the other hand can only be recycled seven times at best. According to the Glass packaging Institute in the US, recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95 percent of raw materials. On carbon emission, one ton of carbon dioxide is reduced for every six tons of recycled container glass used in the manufacturing process.

Beverage container deposit systems also provide 11 to 38 times more direct jobs than curbside recycling systems for beverage containers. (Source: The Container Recycling Institute). Manufacturers benefit also from recycling in several ways. It reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.

The only advantage I see in those paper bottles is that they are biodegradable. Glass bottles may not be biodegradable but they are not as problematic as plastic waste. Bottles do not disintegrate like plastic and they do not pose harm to marine animals.

I do admire however all the other environmental initiatives that Carlsberg has done. In 2018, the Danish brewer launched a number of packaging innovations, including recycled shrink film, greener label ink and the innovative Snap Pack, which replaces the plastic wrapping around its six-packs with a solution that instead glues the cans together.