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How eco-friendly is luxury drinks packaging?

Antoinette Devine, a packaging and materials consultant to alcoholic drinks brands, is speaking at The Drink Symposium being held at the Packaging Innovations & Luxury Packaging London show this week

Antoinette Devine

The Drinks Symposium, happening on Thursday this week, day two of the show, will see three leading industry experts take to the stage in order to share their expertise, and first-hand experience on how packaging can help to win the hearts and minds of the consumer. Devine, a packaging professional with over 30 years of experience will be sharing her knowledge on sustainable solutions, that are not only environmentally friendly, but also pleasing on the eye

Why can luxury brands no longer ignore sustainability when it comes to packaging?

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in environmental/sustainably issues and unfortunately packaging gets some bad press as a result of this. There is no doubting that luxury brands tend to be over packaged but that's the anomaly, consumers want to get value for money when paying over the odds and expect more from luxury products. However, legislation is driving companies to become more sustainable as they pay for packaging placed on the market and this has driven most companies to announce corporate sustainably targets which generally include (correctly or incorrectly) a requirement for packaging reduction.

Can packaging be both luxurious and sustainable or does that defeat the point of products designed to be extravagant and superior?

The waste hierarchy places "reuse" as the optimal option for sustainably. Most luxurious packs are never disposed of, especially the most luxurious spirits packs which are if not reused at least retained for decades. Nobody spends tens of thousands of pounds, e.g. on a Lalique bottle, to throw it away! 

What techniques/products are brands using to try and combine luxury packaging with sustainability?

The main focus for brands is the primary packaging as this is where the bulk of the environmental impact is. Small changes in e.g. bottle weight will not be noticed by the consumer, but for big brands can have a significant benefit for the environment. Companies are also engaging more with suppliers to work to reduce the end to end, full supply chain impact of their products.

How good is the drinks sector at being sustainable?

Some of the drinks industry (geographical location dependent) are very good at being sustainable. An example is those countries where returnable bottles are still widely used for beer and soft drinks. Unfortunately, the primary focus in Europe has been recycling which the public have embraced, but is hindered by inefficient collection schemes. Most of the glass on the UK market is green which is of no use as cullet for the predominantly Flint glass used by premium spirits.

What is next within the drinks industry in terms of sustainable packaging? Will we see new rules and regulations before too long? 

There is talk of Product Carbon Foot-printing but my personal opinion is any move to add this via a mandatory label will be very confusing for consumers who on the most part don't read the label as they already have information overload.

In the UK the drinks industry needs to lobby for a consistent approach to recycling across the board by all local authorities, without that despite published "collection rates" a minimum of 35% of all materials collected for recycling will still end up in landfill. 

13 September 2016