Diageo invests £16m in ‘green’ packaging drive

Drinks giant Diageo is investing £8m in its bottling and packaging plant in Belfast as it plans for the introduction of 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard to replace plastics.

It believes innovation will reduce plastic waste by 400 tonnes per year, equivalent to 40 million 50cl plastic bottles, and new packaging will be on shelves on the island of Ireland from August 2019. GB and other international markets will follow in 2020.

In a bold sustainable move, Diageo is investing £16m to reduce the amount of plastics used in its beer packaging by removing the plastic ring carriers and shrink wrap from its multipacks of Guinness, Harp, Rockshore and Smithwick’s.

Diageo’s bottling and packaging plant in Northern Ireland will be the first site that will be up and running with the new packs, with the business investing £8m in its facility in East Belfast.

The new packs will be on shelf on all beer brands in the island of Ireland from August 2019 and from Summer 2020 in Great Britain and the remaining export markets.

Currently under 5% of Diageo’s total packaging is plastic and this change will reduce Diageo’s plastic usage by over 400 tonnes annually.

This is the equivalent of removing 40 million 50cl plastic bottles from the world, which, if laid out in a row, would reach from London to Beijing (8,136km).

The multi-can packs will be replaced by cardboard packs, which are sustainably sourced, recyclable and fully biodegradable. Individual cans are fully recyclable, including the widget which is contained inside cans of Draught Guinness.

Oliver Loomes, Country Director of Diageo Ireland, said: “Managing our environmental impact is important for the planet and the financial sustainability of our business.

“For 260 years Guinness has played a vital role in the communities around us. We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St James’s Gate and we are now leading the way in sustainable packaging.”

David Cutter, Diageo’s Chief Sustainability Officer and President, Global Supply and Procurement, added: “Great packaging is essential for our products. Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three.

“We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly and I’m thrilled with this outcome for Guinness and our other global beer brands.”

Lucie Milburn, Operations Director at Diageo’s Beer packaging site in Belfast, which will be the first site to develop the new packs, commented: “Diageo’s facility in East Belfast plays an important role in the bottling and packaging of our beers, which are exported around the world, including to the US, Canada, Korea and Europe.

“This latest investment in sustainable packaging is a reflection of the innovation and expertise of our team in Belfast and Diageo’s commitment to invest in the site, which makes a valuable contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.”