WestRock and Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages have successfully installed new equipment at the bottler’s production facility in Philadelphia, seeking to replace an estimated 200,000 pounds of plastic rings used in multipack bottled drinks with recyclable paperboard carriers.

Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages is utilizing PETCollar Shield Plus, which constitutes a substrate, technology, and packaging machine designed by WestRock. Its CarrierKote paperboard is described as a renewable, responsibly sourced paperboard solution containing up to 15% content; combined with automated machinery and optimized package design, it forms the collective PETCollar solution and aspires for a ‘robust and efficient’ multipack solution.

Designed to be easy to hold, the carriers are now packaging Coca-Cola’s top brands in 12-ounce (355mm) and 16.9-ounce (500mm) beverage multipacks. Reportedly, Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages – which bottles Coca-Cola drinks in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City, USA – is the first beverage distributor worldwide to make use of this solution.

“The new packaging technology allows us to completely replace plastic rings with paperboard carriers for products produced at our Philadelphia facility,” said Fran McGorry, co-owner of Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages. “We expect to replace 200,000 pounds of plastic a year from our multi-state territory.”

Sam Shoemaker, president of Consumer Packaging at WestRock, continued: “Liberty Coca-Cola’s commitment to innovation and advancing sustainability is truly inspiring. At WestRock, we are proud to team with Liberty Coca-Cola to help the organization serve its customers while promoting a more circular economy.”

“We are proud to have a local manufacturer like Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages that continues to make investments in sustainability and improve the communities it serves,” added Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, Philadelphia City Council, 7th District. “This is an opportunity for Philadelphia to showcase Liberty’s efforts and to demonstrate that our city is committed to doing its part to better our environment for today and into the future.”

“We are proud of the strides we are making to significantly invest in technology that produces recyclable beverage containers and to be more sustainably innovative,” concluded Fran McGorry, co-owner of Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages. “With the WestRock collaboration, we are able to be industry leaders and make this change.”

The move aligns with PepsiCo Beverages North America’s intent to eliminate plastic rings in its Pepsi, Pepsi Zero, Mountain Dew, Starry, Gatorade, and 7UP multipacks across the US and Canada – replacing them with recyclable, paper-based alternatives.

Similarly, Coca-Cola HBC previously piloted a cardboard and paper alternative to plastic shrink film for 1.5-litre multipacks of Coca-Cola, Fanta, and Sprite in Austria. It estimated that the transition would reduce plastic use by 200 tonnes annually.

Mondi also cites a life cycle assessment suggesting that its paper-based alternative to plastic shrink wrap for bottle bundle packs, Hug&Hold, cuts down on carbon footprint by 43% compared to LDPE shrink wrap. It consists of a kraft paper sleeve and corrugated carrying handle, all of which is said to be fully recyclable.

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