What if bottles could be made entirely from renewable materials and be fully biodegradable? That was the challenge set by the innovative Danish start-up team at Paboco – the Paper Bottle Company – which has now unveiled its Pioneer Community during a launch event in Copenhagen. The Coca-Cola Company is one of the first wave of pioneer companies, working to explore the concept as Paboco further advances its innovations, in line with our ambitions of working to a World Without Waste. We asked Michael Michelsen, business development manager at Paboco, more about the journey Paboco is on, and its vision for the paper bottle.
Could you tell us about the paper bottle concept?
The paper bottle is a step-by-step R&D innovation concept. We’re still at a relatively early stage of its development but at Paboco we like to aim big: one day, we hope to see a paper bottle in every hand. We firmly believe that the work we are undertaking now can help create lasting change in consumer packaging. We’re focused on several different development areas, which all tie back to our vision of creating a 100% recyclable and bio-based bottle. This has potential to be a real breakthrough in circularity for the industry, unearthing huge potential in how packaging is designed, produced and used by consumers.
How did the idea first arise?
Paboco was born out of research, process improvement and product development. The paper bottle itself was a natural outcome of innovative manufacturing systems and paper packaging, and – like all great innovations - stemmed from an idea our founder passionately believed in. He saw significant opportunity to contribute to a world based around renewable resources. This idea also triggered the interest of companies such as BillerudKorsnäs and ALPLA which subsequently led to the joint venture we operate today.
Where has this journey taken you to date?
We’ve always sought to leverage innovation to challenge the status quo. Back in 2015 our founders were running a series of packaging process development projects, which included rethinking some of the traditional rules in how packaging is created and brought to consumers. At that time, we already worked with local partners BillerudKorsnäs and Carlsberg. Over the past four years, we’ve been able to further advance the concept and bring in others along the way. Our ambitious start-up idea is now a joint venture together with much more established companies - BillerudKorsnäs and ALPLA, a specialist in sustainable packaging and in manufacturing at scale. The Pioneer Community is a natural next step to fulfill our goal of making a lasting change, by working with and - learning from - international brands to ensure that our innovations match the real-life needs of producers and consumers.
What advantages can a paper bottle bring?
With the technology that underpins the paper bottle concept may still be early in its journey, we are always looking to the advantages it will bring. Simply put, paper is made from renewable resources, and this can reduce the reliance on other non-renewable resources. Paper also brings several technical advantages, such as flexibility and strength, which can enable designs that other materials are simply unable to match. We believe that a paper bottle can ultimately be used for both carbonated and still food liquids, and other sectors such as cosmetics and home-care.
Are there still design challenges that must be overcome?
Certainly, there are, because we are on a development journey. We anticipate we will continue to make improvements to the design and the materials in the paper bottle and prepare for production at scale. Changing an industry requires progress in increments and a push for sustainable change. The paper bottle concept remains a work-in-progress and being able to truly evolve and scale to meet producer and consumer demand is one of the critical challenges to overcome. Being at the start of this journey also means that we expect to encounter inevitable challenges but as we build and learn but – together with the members of Pioneer Community – we are preparing ourselves to best overcome them!
What do you hope to achieve through the new pioneer community?
The Paboco Pioneer Community is a demonstration of a vision to advance real change in sustainable packaging. This is shared by both Paboco and our pioneer companies. Collaboration is at the heart of long-term progress, and we recognize that to go far, we must go together. We believe that forming the community will help provide the much-needed insight and guidance to help further develop a concept that has potential to scale. We also believe that it can help us solve technical challenges, build on shared learnings in development, and positively push us all forward. As well as being brand owners of highly successful brands, our community members are true experts in material, design and technology.
How are you working with Coca-Cola in this innovation concept?
We’re aligned with the bold ambitions that The Coca-Cola Company has set out in its vision of working towards a World Without Waste. We hope that in the future, the Paper bottle concept can make a valuable contribution to supporting those goals and can provide a mainstream packaging concept that is both simple to collect and recycle, while designed with renewable/ recycled materials. We know that Coca-Cola is already looking at different solutions to make its packaging more sustainable, and we look forward to jointly exploring challenges and learnings from the idea of a paper bottle. Based on the learnings we take on-board together, the input from our wider community, and the continued Paboco focus on scaling our innovation, we hope our entire community can realize the potential in bio-based recyclable bottles made from renewable fibers.