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Why paper bottles may be the best way to sell a Pepsi

Pepsi and Pulpex are plotting a huge change to how you buy a soft drink -- no plastic, no glass.

Plastic bottles are actually highly recyclable - if we have discipline as consumers and if a processor like China has an appetite for them. Unfortunately both tend not to be the case today. Now what?

"Paper bottles" might be a big part of the answer. They are made from wood pulp, molded into bottle shapes and treated so that they can hold liquids safely and reliably without a plastic liner. At the end of life, they can be recycled like other paper products. But that's not to say paper bottles don't face a lot of remaining R&D, especially when it comes to their use for low-cost, mass-market beverages.

Pulpex paper bottle

A Pulpex paper bottle.


PepsiCo is part of a consortium with Pulpex, Unilever and Diageo developing paper bottles. You probably won't see Pepsi soda in a paper bottle for a couple of years, according to Ron Khan, the company's VP of beverage packaging, though partner Diageo is moving apace to release a limited trial of Johnnie Walker scotch in a version of the Pulpex paper container

Black Label scotch in paper bottle

While the companies work on how the packaging will perform, consumer perception will matter as well. I remember when we made the switch from glass bottles and tin cans to plastic bottles and aluminum cans; it required a major shift of consumer acceptance, though the novelty value of a bottle that didn't break or a can that seemed to weigh nothing quickly won the day. Paper bottles would need to similarly capture the imagination with their green bona fides.

Listen to Khan's conversation with CNET's Brian Cooley to find out what challenges remain, and how an opaque bottle might be better than traditional transparent plastic and glass containers. 


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.