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Rival soft drinks companies each claim rPET first

Soft drink and smoothie manufacturer Innocent and manufacturer of Ribena fruit juices and squashes GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) each claim to have scored a coup by introducing, within weeks of eachother, what both maintained on launch were the first ever drinks worldwide to go on shelves in 100% recycled PET packaging.

Innocent, which narrowly beat GSK in getting its 100% rPET bottles on shelves by mid-September, claimed to be the world’s first ever drinks company to begin selling its products in such containers. Initially four Innocent “recipes” ¬– strawberries and banana, “natural detox”, pineapples, banana and coconut and guavas, mangoes and goji berries, have gone on sale in 250ml 100% rPET bottles, following a switch from the 50% rPET containers Innocent has used since 2005. The company hopes to switch all 20 or so of its drink varieties currently sold in plastic bottles to the 100% rPET containers from January. Its products will also continue being sold in paperboard packs. Bottle caps are currently virgin PET “to ensure optimal performance” while Innocent hopes to switch to 25% recycled paper/75% FSC-certified paper labels next year.

Innocent claims a wholesale switch to rPET bottles in 2008 will reduce the volume of CO2 used in its bottles’ manufacture by 1,000 tonnes; the latest containers also use 20% less plastic than its original packaging. The company’s drinks are now sold in countries including the UK and Ireland, Germany, Benelux, France and Denmark.

GSK announced separately in late September that from early October all its ready-to-drink Ribena bottles (in 300ml, 500ml, 600ml and 1.25 litre sizes) will be made from 100% recycled PET “that is recyclable again after use”. Bottle caps will continue to be made from virgin PET. Prior to now Ribena bottles have been produced with a 40% rPET content. Within six months GSK expects its squashes to also be packed in 100% rPET. Ribena drinks are also sold in Tetra Pak-produced cartons.

Anne MacCaig, Ribena marketing director, said: “Today’s announcement hasn’t been without its challenges, but it is a major step forward for sustainable packaging. With nine out of 10 consumers saying they think it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic, we’re confident they will welcome the move.”

All Ribena bottles now also feature recyclable PET shrink sleeves following a switch from PVC sleeves early this year, a development GSK emphasises means recycling centre automatic sorting machines now no longer reject the PET bottles.

The new Ribena bottles are produced by Amcor PET Packaging, with sleeves from Fuji Seal and caps from Bericap. Innocent would not reveal who is producing its containers but acknowledged they are being made in the UK.

The new 100% rPET bottles from Ribena and Innocent