Tethered Closures: Eu Plastic Packaging Regulation and What it Means for the Beverage Industry

April 2021

The EU Single Use Plastic Directive is catalysing change in the European beverage packaging landscape, from targeting recycling and recycled content minimums, to requiring plastic closures to stay attached, tethered, to plastic containers. This, in order to capture closures, for recycling and re-use, for circularity. Tethered caps by 2024 calls for cross-value chain collaboration. R&D efforts, to advance on technical standards, consumer comfort and sustainability pillars, are well underway.

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Key findings

EU Single-Use Plastic Directive targets beverage industry for plastic bottles’ and closures’ pollution

For bottles, there are timelines for recycling and use of recycled content. For plastic caps, these must stay attached ‘tethered’ to the pack, so they are collected and recycled in far greater number. Regulatory pressure here joins with consumer sentiment   The EU Single-Use Plastic Directive places special focus on plastic beverage packaging and closures because of their high volumes in circulation and presence as waste.and brand/packager commitment to plastic sustainability in their business practices.

Article 6 requires beverage brands to convert to tethered caps

Article 6 of the directive requires tethered closures across beverage applications by July 2024 asks for a substantial change to brands’ filling/capping operations with R&D implications for brands, for closure producers, rigid plastic packaging (led by PET bottles), liquid carton and pouch manufacturers, in the transition to tethered caps.

Need for common technical standards that answer on strength and on consumer drinking experience; opportunity also for sustainability

There is need for agreed technical specifications on strength and consumer experience criteria. The closures supply chain seeks early compliance to allow time for testing and production line adjustments, to minimise disruption. This is an opportunity to innovate for sustainability gain, to reduce plastic use and increase recycled content, latter a fast-growing trend for PET bottles. Communication with consumers on reasons for tethered can bring broader improvements to packaging handling post-use, for re-use.

possibility  With push for packaging circularity, further take-up of tethered caps is not beyond the realms of

The use of plastic continues to evolve along circular economy principles. Brands’ actions and national laws signpost a potential for tethered caps beyond the EU. In the US, California’s AB793 bill, passed in 2020 mandates for recycled bottle content which, requires better collection, could tethered caps be an input? Deposit schemes are also discussed as an alternative solution. Given the recent rise in net-zero pledges to address climate impact, tethered caps may see wider reach.

Introduction

Scope: Global and European demand for beverage closures in 2020
Key findings

Environmental Concerns Shape Regulation of Closures

Beverages, largest industry user of closures, is under regulatory scrutiny
A dominance of plastic beverage closures, globally and in Europe
Safety, functionality and sustainability spur on closure innovation…
…but consumers are concerned about the planet and plastic waste
Corporate commitment to the environment holds on in the pandemic
For rigid plastics, European brands lead in on-pack sustainable messaging
And other milestones that support adoption of the EU’s plastic directive
No time to waste: ‘Tethered’ caps, a solution for plastic cap pollution

EU Single-Use Plastic Directive: Article 6

EU Single-Use Plastic Directive coverage and key dates for beverages
Tethered caps and closures in the EU: Article 6 specifics
How plastic beverage closures appear today versus their tethered future

Beverage Packaging and Category Impact

Size of the task: 100 billion beverage packs impacted by SUP directive
Among rigid plastics, the soft drinks PET bottle requires most focus…
…alongside design of the popular screw cap
Key beverages requiring adaptation for PET: Water, carbonates and juice
And for liquid cartons: Liquid dairy, Juice and RTD tea
Existing tethered water bottle closures to guide(1): Cristaline
Tethered water bottle closure(2): California’s Crystal Geyser
Tethered newcomer(3): San Benedetto EcoGreen with QR code to educate

Progress on Tethered Closure Solutions

Need to harmonise standards for plastic screw configuration as priority
With many boxes to tick across the value chain, collaborative action is key
Cetie seeks to agree technical common standards for early compliance
Commercial offering and collaborations: (1) Bericap (2) United Caps
Coca-Cola European Partners announces tethered trial in May 2021

Outlook

A balance to strike: technical spec, consumer comfort and sustainability
Milestones to complete EU tethered cap conversion by 2024
Prospect of geographic expansion as responsibility on plastic rises
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