Earning Metal Pack of the Year recognition in the UK Packaging Awards and described by the judges as “a total game changer in the bottled water market,” as well as “one of the most disruptive and innovative products available,” metal packaging supplier Tecnocap’s PURE 100% post-consumer recycled aluminum bottle is understandably finding great commercial success as well.
In May 2021, U.K. brand owner Sauce Connections introduced Re:Water, a refillable bottled spring water product sourced from Herefordshire, U.K.’s Berrington Water and packaged in Tecnocap’s 100% PCR aluminum bottle, which the supplier says is a world first for spring water. Under development for three years by Sauce and Berrington, the brand was created to provide consumers with a new, more environmentally friendly way of consuming bottled water.
According to Re:Water Director Matt Crocker, the name of the brand encompasses its mission statement, which is Re:Use, Re:Fill, and Re:Cycle. “A secondary reason [we chose the name] is it fits in with the email subject line Re:, or regarding,” he adds. “Regarding bottled water, we want to have an honest conversation with our users about the pros and cons of bottled water and how we can all be more environmentally aware and friendly.”
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Shares Crocker, the project involved meeting three targets: to make a product that was genuinely environmentally friendly, one consumers would like drinking from, and one that was commercially viable for the full supply chain. Re:Water chose the 100% PCR aluminum bottle because of its low carbon footprint and its ability to be refilled and reused. To top the bottle, it selected a 28-mm aluminum closure that can also be easily recycled across the U.K., with no separation required.
Re:Water was fortunate to find an aluminum bottle with 100% recycled content; until recently, this type of package was not being produced. Explains Elio Lamberti, Managing Director of Tecnocap Aerosol & Bottles Division, the challenge in the past to creating a bottle from 100% PCR aluminum was that there was not an adequate supply of the material. “Post-consumer recycled aluminum is created by consumers after a product has reached the end of its use, diverted from the landfill, and utilized in the production of other products,” he says. “To realize this packaging solution, we needed a specific supply chain dedicated exclusively to PCR aluminum that was always available. Through a partnership we formed two years ago with some of our top-class European suppliers of aluminum [slugs], we were among the first in Europe to have the availability of this PCR aluminum for our entire range of products. There is also another difficulty in the process. Our aluminum supplier must have a furnace dedicated exclusively to recycled aluminum, which is processed in a different way than standard aluminum.”
Among the benefits listed by Tecnocap of the PURE bottle are that it generates more than 50% fewer CO2 emissions than virgin aluminum bottles; it is sturdy, yet lightweight, weighing 60 g when empty, which the company says further reduces CO2 emissions; it has a thin, BPA-free coating inside that acts as a barrier between the water and the aluminum, but does not affect recyclability; its aluminum cap allows for resealability and easy recycling; and once the consumer has finished the product, they can refill the bottle or dispose of it in standard U.K. recycling systems.
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Lamberti confirms that Tecnocap has measured the environmental impacts of the bottle through a Life Cycle Assessment and has certified the results, obtaining a third-party EPD – Environmental Product Declaration. He notes, “The bottle is well aligned with the Circular Economy model in that, once produced, it can be used, reused, and recycled to infinity, without any loss of quality, minimizing also the possibility of it becoming waste in the environment.”
The adoption of the bottle did not come without challenges for Re:Water though. Says Croker, “While glass and PET bottles are molded, aluminum bottles are not. This means batches can be different each time, which causes a huge capping challenge. We needed to create and design new machinery from scratch in order to successfully run the product at high speed.”
The aluminum bottle is also more expensive than PET, approximately 90 pence (or approximately US$1.22) across the supply chain. “This cost is passed on [to the consumer],” he explains. “But if you consider the reusable nature of the pack, the consumer is getting both 500 milliliters of spring water as well as a refillable bottle—a strong value proposition.”
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And, consumers are refilling the bottle—up to five to 10 times, according to Crocker. “That said, we also have messages from consumers who have used the bottle for months,” he adds. “Most users buy it on the go, refill it at work or the gym for the journey home, and then either continue to use it, or recycle it.”
Re:Water is available in still and sparkling varieties in a 500-mL size, sold at retail and online. Sauce also manufactures the product for other brands in the U.K., such as Itsu, a British chain of East Asian-inspired fast-food shops and restaurants, and a grocery company, Benugo cafes and restaurants, and TGI Fridays restaurants. Notably, it also supplied custom bottles for the COP26 Glasgow Climate Change Conference last fall and for the 2021 G7 Summit in Cornwall in June 2021.