Coca-Cola is temporarily removing the labels from its Sprite and Sprite Zero on-the-go bottles to trial label-free packaging in hopes of reducing plastic waste.

Although the existing labels are fully recyclable, according to Coca-Cola, designing them out is expected to cut down on the amount of packaging material used and negate the need to separate packaging components before recycling the bottle.

As such, single 500ml Sprite and Sprite Zero bottles will see their labels temporarily removed, with an embossed logo taking their place on the front of the pack. Product and nutritional information will be laser-engraved into the back of the bottle.

The bottles are already said to be made from 100% recycled PET. Green and transparent attached caps will differentiate between Sprite and Sprite Zero drinks, respectively.

Eight Tesco Express stores in Brighton and Hove, Bristol, London, and Manchester will stock the limited design between January and March 2024.

“We want to help create a future where plastic drink packaging will always have more than one life,” explained Dusan Stojankic, VP Franchise Operations, GB&I at Coca-Cola Great Britain. “Labels contain valuable information for consumers, but with the help of technology we can now trial other ways to share this information while reducing the amount of packaging we use.

“Going label-less might seem like a small step, but it is one of several ways we are exploring making recycling easier, minimizing waste, and minimizing the impact of our packaging on the environment.”

“The trial we are announcing today is a milestone for the industry,” continued Javier Meza, VP Marketing, Coca‑Cola Europe. “It’s the first time these two technologies have been used in a pilot globally, where a Coca‑Cola product will appear in a label-less, single-unit bottle sold in-store.

“Although the design change may sound simple, this is a big shift from a marketing perspective. This trial could contribute to longer-term changes to the way brands communicate with their consumers.”

James Bull, head of Packaging and Food Waste Strategy at Tesco, added: “We want to help our customers minimize the environmental impact of the products they buy, including removing plastic and packaging when possible. This trial of label-less packaging by Sprite is a great example of how brands are innovating to provide those solutions.”

“It’s clear that, as a society, we need to reduce, reuse and recycle more, and waste less,” concluded Allison Ogden-Newton, chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy. “Everyone, including businesses, needs to be part of the solution. We welcome this exciting and innovative trial.”

Coca-Cola has sought to reduce its packaging waste by redesigning its products; one of these efforts involved replacing green plastic Sprite bottles with clear alternatives to enhance their recyclability. The company has sought to lightweight and reduce unnecessary materials in the bottles themselves and any outer packaging, while its implementation of attached caps hopes to cut down on littering.

In other plastic reduction efforts, Coca-Cola has been facilitating transitions into 100% recycled plastic bottles, minus caps and labels, in the Philippines and Canada – both moves set to bring the company closer to its sustainability goals, including achieving 100% recyclability for its packaging by 2025 and implementing at least 50% recycled plastic in all its packaging by 2030.

Another label-free bottle came from Fourth Wave Wine and Denomination last year. It claimed to be the first wine bottle not to feature a label and sought to convey all necessary product information, including a scannable QR code, on a digital capsule on the bottle neck.

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