China Food

Coca Cola, Nestle and Master Kang run naked one after another. Please don’t be the next paper straw

unlabeled is just the beginning.

Text: Zhang Chengchen

Source: aifanr (ID: iFanr)


When we walked through the rows of beverage shelves, the bright packaging occupied our attention.

Take down a bottle at random. We look at the label of the bottle carefully. The ingredients list, nutritional composition list, shelf life and other information are displayed on it. They are related to safety and health.

Image from: unsplash

After the whole bottle is put into the dustbin, in order to collect more pure bottle fragments, the once integrated bottle cap, label and bottle body will be “separated from each other” in the recycling factory.

What if all the drinks take off their packaging?

When Coca Cola, iced black tea and mineral water “meet us sincerely”, will it be better for the earth and us?

Coca Cola, Nestle and Master Kang all run naked
What is “unlabeled drink”?
As the name suggests, labels with brand logo and product information are no longer posted on the bottle body, which mainly appear on secondary packaging such as outer cartons.
Beverage bottle bodies are often made of recyclable pet, but labels are rarely used, and the materials of bottle caps are also different. Therefore, manual or machine sorting of bottle bodies, caps and labels is required in the recycling process.
PET bottle recycling process Image from: Coca Cola
Removing the label of PET bottle can not only reduce the use of plastics in the production process, but also make the recycled materials more single and reduce the recycling process.
This is important because pet is one of the plastics with the highest recovery rate. Each pet bottle has a long life cycle, cycle after cycle. Manufacturing and recycling high-quality recyclable PET bottles is a pass on the road of environmental protection for beverage brands.
Unlabeled drinks are still a new thing in China. The brand of “the first to eat crab” is Master Kang.
In early February, its two signature products, iced black tea and sugar free iced black tea, were introduced with a new label free pet bottle version, which was sold by box in the official beverage flagship store, and the price after the coupon was similar to that of the regular version.
The bottle is only marked with the product name and production date by laser printing, and emphasizes “not only bottle sales”.
Picture from: Snack generation
At about the same time, Nestle launched unlabeled PET bottles of coffee in Japan, which were sold in the form of 12 bottles per box, and the labels such as ingredient names were printed on the box.
Image from: nissyoku
The above is just two news items. Unlabeled drinks are not uncommon in Japan and South Korea, and there are also some in France, Thailand and Hong Kong.
Japan’s drinking water brand I LOHAS, France’s mineral water brand Evian, South Korea’s carbonated beverage brand Seagram’s, drinking water brand Jiangyuan Pingchang water and sports beverage brand toreta have all launched label free packaging.
I LOHAS, Evian, torreta
Shweta harit, vice president of Evian global brand, believes that no label is “stripped to the most authentic form, and the bottle is as pure as the water in it”. However, some brands feel that no label is not just taking off the label, and “there seems to be no” is a higher level.
The label free pet bottle of Thai mineral water brand C2 has a bar code attached to the bottle cap and product information stamped on the bottle body, facing the deer in the forest, polar bears walking in the snow and birds flying in the sky.
C2. Picture from: worldbranddesign
Coca Cola also realized that “streaking” is not only about environmental protection, but also competing with design. Fortunately, the foreshadowing has long been buried.
In November 2021, Coca Cola launched a label free pet bottle called “Coca Cola contour label free” in South Korea. It is divided into classic Coca Cola and sugar free Coca Cola, which are sold online in the form of 24 bottles x 370ml.
Coca-Cola Contour Label Free.
The design of “contour bottle” originated in 1915 and was inspired by cocoa fruit. At that time, it distinguished Coca Cola from a group of straight bottles, “even if you touch it in a dark place, you can know it’s Coca Cola”; More than 100 years later, contour bottle once again prevented Coca Cola from “losing its popularity”.
This no label craze is not a fad. Industries, governments and consumers all have their own roles to play.
In 2020, Japan amended the regulations to allow all PET containers containing beverages and specific food condiments to omit labels, but they must have external packaging (such as corrugated boxes) and engrave the recycling identification mark directly on the bottle.
Stills of new life Picture from: watercress
South Korea’s Ministry of environment stipulates that each community will gradually implement transparent PET bottle sorting from December 25, 2020, and install more than four kinds of plastic sorting barrels by 2022, forcing consumers to buy label free packaging that is easier to sort.
But in a broader dimension, the volume of unlabeled drinks is still weak, and the sales channel is a “lifeline” that limits it.
Taking China as an example, bottled beverages such as iced black tea and Coca Cola belong to prepackaged food. Article 67 of the food safety law stipulates that the package of prepackaged food shall have labels, and the labels shall indicate nine categories of matters.
Therefore, in China, unlabeled drinks cannot be used in retail channels such as ordinary supermarkets and convenience stores. Master Kang is only testing the water in e-commerce channels at present.
Korean unlabeled drinks appear in supermarkets Picture from: adsalecprj
Foreign laws and regulations vary, but there are more or less restrictions. Evian mainly promotes hotels, restaurants and reception occasions in France, Singapore and other places, while mineral water brand samdasoo plans to launch a door-to-door non label series.
We rarely see unlabeled drinks in China, and the products need to be tested by the market.
But when famous brands take the lead in putting the first stone into the water, we can see where its ripples go faster.
Starting from the label, anti over packaging
The label occupying a corner of the bottle gives the brand the fulcrum to pry up the cause of environmental protection.
Looking ahead, or to reduce the use of plastics, or to better recycle, many environmental actions also make an article on the label.
Some brands choose to “reduce labels”, which can still play a role, but the unnecessary parts are removed.
The label should not be too large Picture from: Australian Council of recycling
In 2018, it was reported that Nestle’s bottle label size in North American waters decreased by 35%, saving nearly 30000 metric tons of plastic and 4500 metric tons of paper every year.
In April 2020, Suntory launched the limited edition green tea packaging in Japan. The bottle label covering the bottle body was replaced with a small label on the shoulder of the bottle. The original label position was occupied by Zhaocai cat and Dharma. The transparent and fresh tea color has a panoramic view. Sales of this bottled green tea increased by 50% over the same period.
Suntory’s Iraqi right guard gate Image from: JPDA
Some brands try to adopt more recyclable label materials.
PVC is a commonly used material for beverage labels, but it is very close to PET bottles in material density. It is not easy to separate by simple flotation during recycling. Incineration will also produce acidic substances and toxic gases.
Therefore, Yuanqi forest has never used a PVC label. It uses OPS shrink film and other materials to replace PVC. The density of OPS shrink film is smaller than that of pet, which can be recycled, and incineration will not produce harmful gas and pollution.
Or, when the label material and size are as usual, a few strokes can also “turn corruption into magic”.
Image from: interface news
In September 2021, Coca Cola began to prompt the word “recycle me” on the label of the bottle, and talked with consumers with straightforward design to make recycling a subconscious idea. Coca Cola China staff told aifaner:
Beverage bottle packaging is the most direct communication medium with consumers. Coca Cola also hopes to vividly convey the call for sustainable development through Coca Cola packaging, which reaches hundreds of millions of consumers every day.
There is also the ingenious Brazilian Coca Cola company, which took the lead in developing “universal bottles” in 2018, using the same packaging for multiple core brands. The only difference is that the label is 100% recyclable.
Local citizens can return the bottles to the store after drinking the drinks and exchange them for rewards, while the general-purpose bottles will embark on a new journey after cleaning and refilling. The last time they carry coke, this time they may be filled with Fanta.
General purpose bottles will be reused 25 times on average before being recycled; In 2019, the project helped Coca Cola reduce the production of 1.8 billion bottles in Brazil.
The above ingenious ideas around the label directly or indirectly realize the packaging reduction.
The label directly refers to the product design. The change of the label conforms to one of the “three principles of circular economy” of the Alan MacArthur Foundation:
Avoid waste and pollution from the beginning of design.
It is not only the beverage industry that should have “no label action”, all kinds of packaging need to start from the design to realize the source reduction.
I wonder if you have experienced the fear of being ruled by the moon cake box every festival; When dismantling the express, there is no place for plastic film, filler and transparent tape; Inside the cosmetic box, it is mostly separated by filler, sponge or hard paper; Open takeout, big bag with small bag, big box with small box, and sometimes even receive a casserole.
Two button batteries are real goods Image from: reddit / ipattyr6
A simple salad contains so much plastic Picture from: reddit / Suomi
Consumer behavior is social. In addition to the price, quality and function of products, we will pay more or less attention to packaging. In addition to protecting the basic role of products, the added value it brings, such as aesthetic needs, emotional satisfaction and class belonging, is often needed by us.
However, if the packaging is excessive, the so-called “wool comes from the sheep”, the cost will eventually be included in the product price, but the actual value of consumers is limited. Excessive packaging will also bring more “negative external effects”, consume a lot of resources, produce excess pollution and bring additional costs to the whole society.
Businesses will not be held responsible for this.
Image from: unsplash
The trend of lightweight packaging such as no label, reduced label and general-purpose bottle can resist excessive packaging, return the product to the product itself and return more value to consumers.
Brands see this trend and hope to find the best balance at the source of packaging design. Sissi, a staff member of Nestle China, said in an interview with aifaner:
We believe that “visual enjoyment and emotional satisfaction” of packaging does not conflict with “environmental sustainability”. Consumers’ awareness of sustainable development is constantly improving, and they hope to buy products with higher quality, more beautiful and more sustainable packaging. These factors combine to promote the sustainable development of the packaging industry.
If recycling is not active, there is no label and no meaning
Lightweight packaging is not enough. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The foundation it depends on is hidden underwater.
The environmental protection organization Greenpeace once mentioned an interesting point:
The lightweight of plastic bottles also takes place under the background of the rapid expansion of plastic bottle production.
For the convenience of no label in the recycling line, the core question is still: do so many pet bottles really enter the recycling process?
Image from: Laura Sullivan / NPR
This is what companies with sustainable goals should answer.
Instead of being blinded by labels, they should look at the whole cause of environmental protection from a comprehensive and systematic perspective, paying attention to design and recycling.
Otherwise, the label free pet bottle is just a replica of the paper straw, which is not really sustainable and also affects the consumption experience.
But the reality is not optimistic, and the real recycling is still out of reach.
According to the latest research released by the environmental protection organization zero waste Europe in February this year, the recovery rate of pet in the EU market is about 50%, but only 17% of it is made into new bottles, and the remaining pet is “degraded and recycled” into low-quality products, such as plastic pallets, textile fibers, films and ties.
Image from: Zero Waste Europe
One of the reasons is that the production cost of recycled PET is not low and the quality is unstable, but the requirements for food grade plastics are high. “Bottle to bottle” is high-value utilization, while “bottle to chemical fiber” is mainly low-value utilization.
This means that the recovery rate and recovery quality of pet must be increased.
In addition, according to a survey conducted by NPR and PBS frontline in 2020, there may never be an “economically feasible way” to recycle 100% plastic.
Image from: Laura Sullivan / NPR
On the one hand, crude plastics made of oil and natural gas are cheap and of better quality. The oil industry produces more than 400 billion dollars of plastic every year. They don’t want to replace primary plastics.
On the other hand, today’s plastics are more difficult to classify than ever before, and the cost of recycling, classifying and melting recycled plastics is expensive; The performance of plastics will decline due to degradation every time they are reused, and the number of reuse is limited.
Image from: Coca Cola
There is a specific example right now. Last November, Coca Cola was rated as the world’s largest enterprise pollution source for the fourth time at the same time that it launched unlabeled PET bottles in South Korea, because it still relies heavily on disposable plastics based on fossil fuels, and the recovery rate of PET bottles is not as ideal as it said.
At this point, producers or beneficiaries should bear their own responsibilities – Whoever produces goods and makes profits from the sale and utilization of goods should be responsible for recycling.
Picture from: circular pie
Narayan, a professor at Michigan State University, believes that fighting the existing pet is our inevitable destiny:
The popular bottle in the future will still be the current pet bottle. But we need the ability to collect it, recycle it, and recycle it. That’s the future.
As for the unlabeled PET bottles, after consumers complete their consumption, the brand should take more actions in the recycling link in order to truly realize the significance of unlabeled PET bottles.
Bonaqua, a mineral water brand in Hong Kong, has not only launched 100% recyclable RPET plastic label free bottles, but also planned their subsequent treatment methods:
All PET bottles collected are handed over to Baguio, a waste recycling company, and then transported to new life plastics, the first food grade PET plastic recycling plant in Hong Kong.
Coca Cola plans to collect and recycle the same amount of packaging as the products sold by 2030. Some successful cases are that thanks to the efficient deposit return system, 85% of Coca Cola’s pet bottles in the Swedish market are recycled.
Deposit return system Image from: Zero Waste Europe
Measures to strengthen the recovery rate of pet also include replacing colored bottles with transparent packaging, strengthening recovery processes such as chemical depolymerization, and levying plastic packaging tax Even if the bottle is washed, dried and then thrown away by consumers themselves, it can make the recycling process more convenient.
However, as NPR warned, plastic can be recycled, but we should not have “unrealistic expectations” for its actual effect.
Promoting refillable bottles and rolling out beverage vending machines with their own cups are environmental protection options that can go side by side with recycled PET bottles.
Picture from: Muji
For all the above explanations, no label is only the beginning. How to make pet more recycling? More economic and technical barriers need to be eliminated, and systematic changes should be made in the design, collection and recycling of pet.
Image from: Coca Cola
In the near future, when we buy unlabeled drinks in boxes, they will braved pleasant light bubbles, and the plastic garbage in the distance will still pile up like a mountain; When empty bottles are thrown into the dustbin, many pet bottles restart a new life in places we don’t see.

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Original title: Coca Cola, Nestle and Master Kang run naked one after another. Please don’t be the next paper straw tomorrow wave

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