Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I has announced a multi-million pound investment in new technology, allowing it to eliminate plastic rings from can packaging across its entire UK-produced beer range by the end of 2020. This makes the group the latest in a line of high-profile beverage brands, including Carlsberg and Corona, to take such a step.

The group says this £6.3 million investment will enable it to eliminate a total of 850 tonnes of plastic each year – the equivalent weight of 425 black cabs, 67 double decker buses or 10 blue whales.

This total will include removing 250 tonnes of plastic rings previously used to hold packs of beer cans together (comparable to 117 million plastic rings in total), and 600 tonnes of shrink film, normally used as tertiary packaging around trays used in the shipping of beer packs.

As part of AB InBev, the world’s leading brewer, Budweiser Brewing Group is committed to meeting far-reaching Sustainability Goals embedded in its business, to preserve the natural resources needed to brew beer for years to come. The brewer counts some of the UK’s biggest beer brands in its portfolio, including Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Bud Light, Beck’s and Michelob ULTRA, and produces over 870 million cans per year. It says the removal of plastic rings from all UK products, including the Stella Artois pint can four-pack, the nation’s biggest selling small pack format, will have a significant impact in reducing plastic from supermarket beer shelves. 

Paula Lindenberg, President of Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, said: “Protecting our natural resources and operating efficiently is crucial for our business, as well as the communities we live and work in. This is why we have spent the past decade investing in circular packaging initiatives around the world to close the loop and reduce waste. We’re proud of the work we’ve already done so far, but we realised more needed to be done to address the issue of single use plastics. This announcement ensures that the UK’s favourite beers will soon come in recyclable paperboard packaging, so consumers can make even better choices each time they shop. This is another important step towards a more sustainable future, as we move towards brewing our biggest beer brands with 100% locally-sourced barley and 100% renewable electricity from solar power.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “Blue Planet II shone a harsh spotlight on the devastating impact plastic pollution has on our world. Through our landmark Resources and Waste strategy, we’re working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste and we’ve made real progress - driving down plastic bag use by 90% through the 5p charge, introducing a world-leading ban on microbeads and setting out plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to push up recycling rates.  But we can’t turn the tide on plastic pollution alone so I’m hugely encouraged to see a major company like Budweiser Brewing Group UKI making substantial investment in green technology to significantly cut its use of plastic by over 850 tonnes a year, the equivalent weight of 67 double decker buses.”

In order to eliminate plastic rings from all packaging by the end of 2020, Budweiser Brewing Group will restructure and reconfigure production at its two main UK breweries in Magor, South Wales, and Samlesbury, Lancashire. This £6.3 million investment in the renovation and upgrades to three canning lines will produce alternatives to plastic, including Keel Clips™, a new technology which uses recyclable paperboard to create a lighter weight pack, as well as wraps and boxes.

Elise Dickinson, Head of Innovation at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I said: “Making some of the UK’s best-selling beers means that we produce almost 17 million cans per week, so we need technology that can be scalable, as well as efficient to keep up with demand. This new packaging will allow us to produce up to 2,000 cans per minute in a recyclable paperboard “clip”, called a Keel Clip™.  We will be reconfiguring our entire canning production lines in both of our main breweries to introduce this machinery and expand overall paperboard packaging capacity, so that we can ensure all plastic rings are eliminated.”

The announcement comes as C&C Group, a key distribution partner for Budweiser Brewing Group, also unveils plans to cut plastic rings and shrink wrap across its British cider portfolio, including Magner’s and Orchard Pig, removing almost 250 additional tonnes of plastic from the UK market. The changes will begin to roll out from March next year, beginning with the Magners 18-can pack, which will be packaged in recyclable paperboard.