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5/10/2018 | 2 MINUTE READ

NPE Diary Vol. 4: Hiiiiiiighway to the Bottle Zone

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Deep thoughts about consumer tastes in packaging from the Bottle Zone in the South Hall, which you should visit even if your business has nothing to do with bottling.

Even if your business has nothing to do with bottling, you’d be well-advised to visit the Bottle Zone in the South Hall, where—among many, many other things—you can drink beer or wine from plastic bottles in the Bottle Zone Biergarten.

It occurred to me while I was there that, sure, this is the plastics show, so everything is plastic (as well it should be). But I feel like in our day-to-day lives it’s rare to come across an item we’re surprised to see is made of plastic.

Wine and beer are a weird exception. You can buy these substances anywhere in this country if you’re of age, and yet an ice-cold beer served in a perfectly normal plastic bottle is a relative rarity outside of our nation’s many fine football stadiums. If you had a barbecue and served beer to your guests like the kind they have at the Biergarten right now, at least one person would exclaim “oh, this is made of plastic.” That’s not something people exclaim very often.

I asked one of the presenters in the Bottle Zone’s technical program why that was—and why, specifically, alcohol packaging seems to be one of plastic’s final frontiers. But he sort of shrugged as he admitted there isn’t really a good answer, beyond consumer tastes in packaging.

Technically speaking, there are a lot of good reasons why most, if not all, alcohol should be packaged in plastic. It’s lighter and easier to transport, it doesn’t break, it can be capped with the same level of quality and consistency as any other material and, in a lot of instances, plastic bottles don’t require extra layers to add barrier properties (wine is an exception; you need to put a barrier in wine bottles made of plastic to prevent oxygenation and sun exposure, but this typically doesn’t affect the recyclability of the bottle).

The issue is mainly consumer taste. For some reason, consumers (particularly in America) think less of alcohol served in plastic bottles. But since when did glass get a monopoly on classiness? What makes glass classy and plastic the opposite of that?

The biggest, most obvious advantage to anything made of plastic is that it’s lightweight. Most non-alcoholic beverages are packaged in plastic, and that saves tons of carbon emissions. Imagine extending those savings to the world’s alcoholic beverages. The impact could be huge, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that producing plastic is a much more efficient, less energy-intensive process than producing other bottling materials.

One day I hope to host a barbecue and, instead of giving them beer in a breakable glass bottle or aluminum can, I’ll offer them beer in a plastic bottle that took much less energy to reach them, won’t break, tastes the same and can be recycled. Now that’s what I call classy.





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