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Miller launches, Bud in test

Citing “growing consumer and retailer demand” as its motivation, Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co. has announced the nationwide rollout of its plastic barrier bottles for Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Lite and Icehouse brands in both 16- and 20-oz sizes.
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FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
     

The five-layer coinjection/stretch blow-molded bottles from Continental PET Technologies (Florence KY) have been available in test markets since October ’98 (see Packaging World Dec. ’98 p. 71 or packworld.com/go/beer). They’re made of polyethylene terephthalate and nylon and include an oxygen scavenger. Now markets across the country will begin seeing the bottles says Miller spokesman Scott Busson as soon as Miller can get them to its distributors. According to Busson a dedicated bottling line in Fort Worth TX is fully capable of meeting volume requirements.

Although four-and eight-count paperboard multipacks have been tested the rollout will involve individual bottles. That unit package is more suitable for distribution through on-premise and C-store channels than supermarkets or liquor stores says Busson.

While the bottle hasn’t changed much since its first appearance the roll-on aluminum closure was recently modified so that no aluminum remains on the bottle when the cap is removed. This makes recycling easier. Busson admits that the amber coloring of the Lite and Icehouse bottles remains a concern to recyclers. But he points to other amber PET bottles already in the marketplace that somehow are sorted out. Presumably says Busson Miller’s amber bottles will be handled no differently than those.

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Three significant changes to the bottle will occur this summer says Miller. Post-consumer recycled resin will be incorporated into the bottle sidewall. The cap will be replaced by an injection-molded polypropylene closure with an integral oxygen barrier that cap-maker Owens-Illinois (Toledo OH) declines to discuss. And paper labels will be replaced by PP film labels. PP won’t break down as easily as paper says Busson so film labels will be easier to remove from the PET during recycling.

The new plastic cap is also viewed as environmentally advantageous because some bottles are bound to reach recyclers with caps on. During the flotation stage of PET reprocessing aluminum sinks along with the PET flake while PP floats thus making it easier to separate both cap and label from the PET.

Anheuser-Busch meanwhile has resumed its test of Budweiser and Bud Light in plastic bottles. These bottles are now in Houston and several markets in Florida. “Further expansion is planned for at least 20 additional markets in the coming month” says an A-B spokesman. “Our plastic bottles will be available in sports and entertainment venues and at special events in those markets.”

Nothing further was available from A-B at press time. But industry insiders indicate that the 16-oz amber bottles take a roll-on aluminum closure and come in two varieties. One is the same five-layer structure from Continental PET Technologies that Miller Brewing uses. The other from Constar (Philadelphia PA) is a three-layer PET/barrier/PET structure with a barrier layer that incorporates Constar’s proprietary oxygen scavenger.

Sources indicate that Constar coinjection molds preforms on equipment developed by Kortec (Beverly MA) and that the cold-filtered beers are bottled at A-B’s St. Louis headquarters facility.


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