“Paper” Bottles For Your Fizzy Drinks (And Bottle Rockets)

A story that passed almost unnoticed was that the Coca-Cola company plan to run a limited trial of paper bottles. Wait, paper for a pressurized beverage? The current incarnation still uses a plastic liner and cap but future development will focus on a “bio-based barrier” and a bio composite or paper cap tethered to the vessel.

Given that plastic pollution is now a major global concern this is interesting news, as plastic drinks bottles make a significant contribution to that problem. But it raises several questions, first of all why are we seemingly unable to recycle the bottles in the first place, and given that we have received our milk and juice in paper-based containers for decades why has it taken the soda industry so long?

Plastic soft drink bottles are made from Polyethylene terephthalate or PET, the same polyester polymer as the one used in Dacron or Terylene fabrics. They’re blow-moulded, which is to say that an injection-moulded preform something like a plastic test tube with a screw top fitting is expanded from inside in a mould by compressed gas. As anyone who has experimented with bottle rockets will tell you, they are immensely strong, and as well as being cheap to make and transport they are also readily recyclable when separated from their caps.

The Perfect Product Turns Out To Be Less Perfect To Get Rid Of

Used plastic bottles collected for recycling.
Used plastic bottles collected for recycling. That’s a lot of space for not a lot of plastic. Radulf del Maresme, CC BY-SA 4.0

So if plastic bottles are such a handy products, why are we seemingly so bad at recycling them? At fault is their low density, there’s very little plastic in a typical drink bottle for something that takes up quite a lot of space even when crushed. Handling them requires significant infrastructure, and as a result in many cases they end up either discarded as litter or entering the regular trash stream. In Germany they take a different approach to the recycling problem by applying a deposit to each bottle and re-using them, thus German plastic bottles are much thicker-walled than those in use elsewhere. This however requires both the political will to mandate it and a nationally-organised bottle handling industry to service it, something few nations are likely to embrace.

PET bottles suffer from one problem though that isn’t shared by their glass equivalents, they are gas-permeable. I learned this to my cost when I was much younger, when I made a batch of cider in plastic bottles it turned into vinegar over a few months as small quantities of air were able to make it through the plastic. If you leave a carbonated drink for long enough in its bottle it will eventually lose its fizz, so there’s a lower limit on the thickness of their plastic that doesn’t apply for short-shelf-life products in Tetra-Paks such as that milk or juice. So whatever paper bottle the soft-drink giant comes up with must be gas-tight enough to preserve the fizz as well as robust enough to survive transport and hold the CO2 pressure from the drink.

Paper with a Plastic Lining

The bottles they’re evaluating come from a Danish company, PABOCO. They promise a sustainable polymer vapour barrier and a wood pulp bottle shell strong enough to take the knocks, and we suspect that the “Mobile connectivity to engage consumers to understand and ensure an afterlife” will probably be a QR code to connect with the bottle spirit world.

Right now that’s just a promise from the company. The current revision of the container technology uses a “a preliminary plastic barrier film”. Given that existing paper-based cartons can present a significant recycling challenge due to their inseparable composite nature, we hope that one recycling problem won’t simply be replaced with another.

However, the plan is to further develop the technology and replace that plastic barrier:

The first-generation concept will be partly renewable and fully recyclable, but it is the next and following paper bottle generations barriers that will create a truly sustainable alternative.

We’re looking forward to the first paper bottles reaching a retail shelf so we can have a look for ourselves.

142 thoughts on ““Paper” Bottles For Your Fizzy Drinks (And Bottle Rockets)

    1. I could be mistaken, but I think aluminum cans also have a thin plastic liner in them?
      I have memories of a YouTube video of can of cola being mostly submerged in a chemical solution that reacts with aluminum to dissolve it away, leaving behind a bubble of soda with an aluminum top.

      1. They have, but unlike carton/plastic composites, you can just burn the plastic liner on the aluminium and reuse the metal – the plastic part is not reusable in neither.

    2. Well, you mean aluminum and the part that actually contains the carbonated, low pH liquid being Bisphenol A (BPA) or another very similar type of epoxy resin with a slightly different name so it is then suddenly marketed as BPA free when it only technically is not but it’s almost identical?


      1. BPA is an additive to plastics as polycarbonate, not a plastic by itself.
        For chemical neutrality you could use EVA, PET, HDPE or sonething similar, because it must be FDA safe.

  1. Another solution to the issue could just be a “bring your own bottle” initiative for these commodities. Where one needs to bring a cleaned bottle to the checkout and have them fill it up with some agreed on quantity. Be it soda, milk, or other liquids.

    Then there is no need for recycling and bio degradable bottles. Since we instead reuse.

    Same can technically be applied to a lot of products to be fair. Though, for self checkout/service, then sanitation could be an issue, though an over the counter option would likely see its own issues in terms of cost effectiveness.

    I for one wouldn’t mind a bring your own container type of system for a lot of products to be fair.

    We could also take a step up further on the recycling ladder and simply reduce our needs for these commodities to start with. But this isn’t always an option for a lot of people.

    1. We just return the used bottles, and the manufacturer cleans them and refills them. That’s better, because they can use a cleaning method that’s both more efficient, as well as guaranteed to be removing all pathogens, and make sure the bottle is still in good shape to be reused.

      1. “removing all pathogens” are they selling empty bottles? Soda and beer are both chock full of pathogens. Alcohol is poison, sold specifically because it destroys living cells.

        1. Beer and soda are both low enough pH that dangerous pathogens can’t survive in them. Hops in beer also provides antimicrobial properties to help keep the liquid safe to drink. You might get some off flavors from other microbes, but nothing toxic. And unless you’re selling high proof liquor, the alcohol present isn’t concentrated enough to kill cells.

      2. like we used to?

        “pickaxe” brand beer bottle were used until they “popped” on the filling line (don’t ask)

        Coke in glass tastes better, those “wasp waisted” bottles were reused for hundreds of cycles, usually untill they burst in the filling machine

        anyone else remember bottled milk?

        1. We used to have a Lawson’s milk store down the road from us growing up… this would be the 1960’s (United States). The bottles had a built-in grip to aid in pouring.

      1. Yes, sanitation is the big drawback of a bring your own bottle initiative.

        Ensuring that it can be done in a safe manner is honestly hard. One can do some things to ease up the problem. Like requiring that the bottle needs to be visually clean, and that it also needs to be empty. Having a larger opening can help reduce spillage something that in turn can make the operation a bit cleaner and thereby less likely to collect pathogens.

        I personally don’t see the idea as unreasonable, but it still has challenges.

        1. Have the bottle filled up through a new lid supplied by the store, where the lid is the condom between machine and bottle. so the waste is miniaturised to lids instead of whole bottles

          1. What if there was an actual “condom” in the lid that expands to the shape of the container? That way you never even have to clean it, because the bottle stays dry.

    2. If I understand correctly, environmental impact of manufacturing, cleaning and disposing reusable bottles exceed that of disposable ones regardless of how many times it is reused. It’s basically bad as thickening disposable bottles and that’s it.

      1. There is a bit of a difference between the reuse system used for glass bottles and a “bring your own bottle” scheme. All though, the later does have issues in regards to sanitation.

        The collecting, cleaning, transporting and refilling and additional transport of most current reusable bottles is indeed a bit of a resource sink. But improvements could be made to such a system. For an example reducing the transport part by having the collection site and refill facility be in the same area, preferably in the store where the filled bottle will be resold. Would though not be as applicable to smaller stores, but if the problem can be tackled in larger stores, then that would help reduce the overall by a likely noticeable amount.

        For a bring our own bottle there could be improvements as well. The bottle could for an example have a larger opening as to more easily be poured into without causing spillage. This would drastically reduce contamination risks since pathogens would have a fairly hard time climbing up stream, on top of the base requirement that the bottle should be clean and empty to start with.

        How applicable these solutions are depends on the area and type of beverage.

        Having more standardized bottles that can be refilled on a commercial scale would likely be advantages for more “on the go” serving. While the bring your own bottle would likely be more applicable when one brings something home.

        But there is likely always going to be a certain need for the current fairly transport intensive solution of single use packaging. Since it is easier to stock more rare products in this fashion. Ie, the store doesn’t have to have their refilling machine fill up a handful of a drink that few people buy, at this point, it can be more logistically sane to just transport prefilled bottles from somewhere else.

        But in the end.
        The idea that a reusable bottle is more resource intensive than current disposable ones.
        Then I suggest you to take a fairly standard PET bottle, and reuse that until it breaks. The label will wear off fairly quickly, but the bottle will likely take weeks before it wears out sufficiently to risk leaking.

        Making something that is a bit more rugged is partly not directly needed to be fair. I would though make the opening bigger for reasons stated above.

        1. There used to be re-usable PET bottles that were made much thicker to survive the cycling. The main problem was that they’d only last 30-40 cycles through the wash before they’d turn out too scuffed up to be sold again. You would see these bottles in 1 or 1.5 liter sizes, and they were all scratched up and misshapen by the end of their life, which was a bit of a PR disaster as people would leave the ugly bottles on the shelf and pick the fresh looking ones.

          Plus, transporting the empty bottles was really inefficient, as they would literally be full of air. The new one-use bottles are simply crushed and compressed at the site, so the same truck can carry ten times more bottles to recycling.

          1. A shame that the reuseable bottles didn’t last long, but why did transporting them around need to be less efficient than the current system. Surely if you deliver deliver one crate of full bottles you just pick up empty ones? Compared to the current system of deliver a full bottle, and drive back with an empty truck, then another truck gets to deliver nothing and pick up recycling?

          2. It’s because the space taken up by the empty bottles and crates (also remember the crates don’t last forever) could be used for other purposes. Trucks driving around with bottles full of air is not efficient use of the truck, which could otherwise be filled with other goods.

            I was briefly employed in an establishment that would get shipments of beer in glass bottles, and the truck would stop by on its way somewhere else. It would drop crates, but it would not pick up empties because loading them up would block up the rear of the trailer from unloading at the next destination. We would collect the empties in a pile of crates at the back, and then once in a while they would send a different truck just to collect them.

            Now obviously, if you have single-use bottles and a bottle return machine, you would crush them to a very small volume, and you can collect a whole load of them, so the collection truck has to come around a lot less frequently. Also, no crates involved, just a plastic bag full of crushed bottles or cans…

      2. The Netherlands used to have the bottle re-use scheme for soda. However, we switched over to lighter, single use bottles that you have to return to the shop. From there, they get recycled.
        There is a €0,25 statiegeld/pfand/consigne that you pay when buying it, and get back when you put it in the recycle machine

        1. Yes, for some beverages the deposit is higher than the value of the content and for sure higher than the value of the bottle. I accept to bring the empty bottle to the nearest trash or recycling bin but I hope this overpriced deposit system will not spread. You have to bring the bottle back into the shop where you bought it in undamaged shape, you are not allowed to crush the bottle to save space in your bag. And in the shop they crush it into a recycling container anyway..

      3. I see this “doing something is worse than doing nothing” argument a lot. I think it’s a lie spread by incumbent wealth. The people you give your money to want you to keep giving it to them. They don’t want you to give any of it to anyone else, so they try to convince you that any change is bad. Please find evidence of this to back up such a claim, and in the future, question the motives of anyone who tries to get you to continue doing something without changing anything.

        1. The problem is, the given alternative IS simply giving the money to someone else who is not really helping the case. Whether you attach some conspiracy theory to it or not, you still have to take a critical view of, is recycling really recycling, and if not then why should we pay for it? (it’s not, and we should not. Just drink less soda.)

    3. Reminds me of Zelda BoTW – Link have to have a bottle before he can buy/collect bait/potions/fairies. Needless to say that the bottles are very rare in the game. It is not something I want to see IRL.

      Make the material worth recycling or have return deposit and ther’ll be someone collecting them to amek a few cents.

      1. That game mechanic was actually introduced in the SNES game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The concept was used over and over again in later games to store consumable items. Not sure about BOTW but in traditional Zelda games there would be a set number of bottles within the game world, with the first usually obtainable early in the game then later ones typically requiring finding them in various places or completing side quests.

        In Twilight Princess the reusable nature of the bottles is emphasized after you are rewarded a bottle of milk for getting the shopkeeper’s cat to return. Once you drink the milk you can get it refilled at the shop or use it to gather one of the many consumable items throughout the world.

    4. I buy the PET bottles for lightweight and convenience. Your solution destroys the convenience value. I am also against a deposit system like in germany, where you have to bring the bottles back to the place where you bought them. It’s extra effort, cost and inconvenience.
      Though I do not throw used bottles into the landscape (that looks ugly) but into a trash or recycling bin.

        1. Material human progress consists of 2 things only: making new things and making existing things more convenient. You are suggesting discarding half of material human progress.

          1. I’m willing to suggest a lot more than that. Humanity is FAR from perfect. Why act like it has reached some pinnacle of perfection? Invent, share, iterate. This is hackaday after all.

    1. Plastic rings haven’t been used in my parts for years. They caught too many cats, foxes, badgers, particularly stupid dogs… basically medium size animals that investigate things with their faces. We basically have branded shrink wrap around cans now, which is better from a catching animals point of view, but probably more plastic. I wouldn’t mind seeing a paper container, I expect “KeepClip” charges enough though.

    2. Breweries on the west coast have been using a snap-on 6-pack “lid” for a while. Pak-Tek is the brand I known of, but there might be others. They’re technically reusable, but there’s no return infrastructure so they’re all recycled.

      More and more breweries are switching to cardboard boxes for 6-packs. And I think Corona has designed cans that twist together to lock into a long stack, eliminating any extra packaging completely.

  2. Sometimes you have to take small steps to get to where you want to be. The first cell phones were literally the size of a brick. Now you can have a powerful computer that fits in your pocket. The first paper bottles will be lined with plastic and have a plastic top, but 10 years from now, after a series of baby steps, who knows what we’ll have.

    1. We have used paper for milk and juice for +40 years already (Tetrapak). If memory serves me right they started with a wax sealer on the paper. Now I belive plastic is so cheap and convenient it is difficult to take the steps backwards.

  3. Two questions come to mind:

    1. Why not dispense with the plastic bottles, and use glass or aluminum? Both are already widely used, and easily recyclable.

    2. Why not require a deposit? That encourages and pays for recycling.

    1. Here in Sweden we pay a fee on top of the cost of the product, that we later can get back when we take it to the recycling machine that usually is somewhat around the entrance to the grocery store itself. This fee exists on PET, aluminium and even glass bottles.

      Though, the fee is fairly small so most people don’t mind it much, I personally wouldn’t care if it were doubled or more, it also helps with keeping the streets clean for those few times people don’t dispose of their bottles correctly.

      I don’t know how many other countries have a similar system. But I at least thinks it works fairly effectively.

        1. And they have limited return locations with limits on how many per day can be returned, ensuring the government doesn’t end up paying back a large % of those deposits.

          1. That seems like a broken system in that case to be fair.

            Here the return places are literally everywhere. I don’t have to walk more than 20 minutes to reach at least 3 different stores with such facilities.

            Though, I think that the deposit is a bit on the weak side, it isn’t really enough to encourage people to recycle properly.

          2. Yeah every single CRV buyback center in Humboldt county CA closed last year. Complying with some new California law would have ment they were losing money, I guess it’s still profitable, in more populated area . it’s nice not to have homeless people going through my trash getting it everywhere, but it’s annoying paying a deposit I can’t get back.

          3. You would think that every place that would sell glass bottles could accept bottles for recycling because the distribution vehicle drops off full bottles and could pick up the empty bottles then they are returned to the bottling plant for cleaning and refilling. Not sure it is that hard to figure out.

          4. I’ve taken tons of cans back to supermarkets in Massachusetts and I never saw these limits. They sound like anti-homeless measures more than anything else. Can you be more specific as to where such measures are taken?

          5. > because the distribution vehicle drops off full bottles and could pick up the empty bottles

            In theory, but in practice the empty bottles stack in front of the full bottles in the trailer and you have to keep shuffling them around, which takes time, which is money.

        2. Chris J: There are far better ways of ending homelessness than shutting down their lines of income. That’s horrible. If you’re worried about the homeless going through your trash looking for cans and bottles, you could just recycle them. You could also put them in a separate box so the poor homeless people can get at them easier. Compassion for the homeless is not a sin.

    2. Those are good questions. To answer your first question, glass is more expensive and can break, potentially causing injury, but the beer industry does use glass, so this is kind of a weak argument. Aluminum is not a bad choice, but I can’t picture a 2 liter bottle made out of aluminum. A 20 ounce that I buy at the register would work as an aluminum bottle. I think there’s a beer company that uses aluminum bottles, but I can’t remember.

      To answer your second question, some locations do require a deposit. In NY, for example, we pay a 5 cent deposit for each bottle of water or carbonated beverage. And, we have a system where the place you return the bottles to gets one cent of that return, so we have stores that are just bottle return shops. (Last time I took my empties back, it was over $300, and I’ve got about that much in the garage right now!)

      But, here’s the thing, a paper bottle with no plastic would be better than glass or aluminum because it would decompose. The paper bottle with a plastic liner and cap may not be that solution, but it’s a step towards that solution. That’s why I mentioned the cell phones. Imagine if someone said that they wanted a smartphone but the cell phone hadn’t been invented yet, and they said that it was better off just using a land line because they already worked.

      This paper bottle is not the final solution, just the solution we can make now. So let’s make it, let’s use it, and let’s keep developing it until we get to the final solution.

      One last thing, just because we start working on this paper bottle thing doesn’t mean we can’t start to work on the glass and/or aluminum solutions where they work. That would be a win/win, I’d say.

          1. The Aluminum can works because it’s pressurized. Aluminum cans are cheap because they’re almost foil-thin.Once it’s opened, it is consumed, so it doesn’t need to maintain structural integrity. If you add a screw top, then you have to bulk up the sides as well because the pressure is lost, and that makes it expensive.

    3. Glass was dropped decades ago for soda. I remember buying 2L glass bottles, and those could so easily explode. Aluminum is used a lot, at least in North America (I notice here those are the best prices), but apparently during the Pandemic, there’s a shortage, so soda companies have cut back on some flavors.

      We’ve long had deposits in Canada, and it’s fairly common in the US.

          1. Price is often a function of volume. Once the demand becomes inelastic and goes through the roof, producers amass and start race to bottom after a while. Chemically strengthened glass doesn’t require exotic or rare chemical elements in its production process, so there is no intrinsic reason for great price difference compared to now common glass.

          2. It’s not the chemicals that cost money, but the process of applying them to the glass, in a controlled and uniform fashion. If it’s not well controlled, because the chemical tempering works by creating internal tensions, you end up with bottles that explode spontaneously.

          1. The small bottle is proportionally stronger. If you scale it up, the wall thickness would need to increase significantly and the large bottle would become too heavy and too expensive to manufacture, which is why they left it thin, which is why they kept breaking.

          2. There are still problems even with smaller bottles. Back in the mists of time, I worked summers and Christmas vacation selling coke in Tampa. Err, that should have been Coke, but…

            The typical mix in the truck was returnable bottles, cans and one way bottles(OWBs). I always wore sunglasses because bottles would explode when you moved them. Especially in the summer. 32 ounce ones would blow up while sitting in the truck. I had 16 ounce ones blow up in my face when I picked them up. 12 ounce ones would typically crack at the bottom. 32 ounce Sprite bottles would usually break at the shoulder. I don’t recall handling many 6 1/2 ounce bottles at that plant. In Texas they were mainly used in dance halls that were BYOB for mixers.

            The biggest problem is that in the process of handling returns, the bottles would pick up scratches. So it was a combination of where and how deep the scratches were, the internal pressure, how you held you mouth, phase of the moon, etc. that would predict an explosion. They were common enough that you would carry extra cases to replace broken ones. The OWBs were far less of a problem, although they still would break sometimes. At that plant, the OWBs were 64 ounces and came with a Styrofoam cover on the outside. They were packed 6 in a box and usually only broke if they got tossed around.

        1. Weight was available ne thing I meant to add. One bottle may not be heavy, but over a full run it adds up. Soda may not be so bad since the bottling is done more locally, but other things travel a distance.

          Everything is connected, so you can’t dismiss something without looking at it from multiple angles

    4. Personally I wouldn’t mind glass, except that drunk people have a bit of a tendency to break them. From a Finnish perspective, after most local beer manufacturers switched to aluminium, I pretty much stopped seeing broken bottles that used to be spread all around the city.

      And even back then, all bottles and cans in Finland were already in a deposit system, with fairly large deposits per item as well. But nobody wants to carry empty bottles around, no matter what their value is.

      I guess the glass could be wrapped in plastic, but that’s just silly…

      1. One of the silliest things I’ve seen people do with glass beer bottles, in a public park, was to put them neck down and stomp them into the lawn to avoid carrying them back. I suppose that’s better than smashing them, but really, who’s gonna dig them out?

      2. Don’t use plain plastic, use mostly paper.

        A shell for the glass made from a composite of paper and some type of compostable polymer would make a very strong laminate, which is still easy to recycle and won’t pollute the environment with glass shards if it gets picked up before the shell degrades.

        Deposits work, people respond well to monetary incentives. Even if especially lazy people will throw stuff out regardless, someone will readily pick it up to get the deposit. Problem solved.

    5. Glass is heavy and fragile. Aluminium is already used in the form of cans and really convenient. Although environmental hysterics also target against the cans.
      A deposit for single use bottles is just an annoyance. I put them into a trash or recycling bin after use but I do not want to take it back into the shop.

  4. “… they are also readily recyclable when separated from their caps.”

    A good number of the soft drinks I’ve purchased in plastic bottles recently actually have “Recycle With Cap On” printed on the cap, so I’m going to guess that this rule no longer applies.

  5. Where I live, it’s frustratingly inconvenient to recycle. You have to go very far out of your way to recycle, or pay a ton extra for recycling pickup on top of your normal garbage collection fee. There is strong incentive to put recyclables in the normal trash because it’s cheaper and far easier

    1. The cost of the separate collection usually means the recycling consumes more resources than it saves.

      If two garbage vans have to drive their rounds to pick up two different kinds of waste, it quickly negates the point of recycling the materials – especially if the same function can be accomplished at the central waste processing facility which can more economically separate the different waste fractions.

      1. We used to have a truck make one pass with two loaders, one for each side of the street.
        Then came recycling and there are still two loaders, but now two trucks.
        Then came the Arm which means each truck makes two passes, but only one driver, so a total of four passes as the Arm only loads from one side.
        More fuel, more noise, less employment – perfect. And there is no place for the “recycle” material to be recycled.

    2. For decades all the technology has existed to take in unsorted domestic waste + sewage, separate all the recyclables, cleanly high temperature burn what’s burnable and non-recyclable, and output clean water, electricity, glass, metals, plastics (if desired), and combustible liquids not used for powering the processing plant.

      But nobody will put it all together in one place. Plus there’s resistance from people who equate any “burning garbage” with ordinary low temperature incinerators, and no amount of showing them the facts will alter their ignorance. (I tend to find that same group also includes many 9/11 “truthers”, moon landing deniers, and anti-vaxers.)

      Imagine a facility where garbage trucks dump unsorted waste, which gets shredded then pressed between rollers to squeeze out liquids, both water and oil based.

      To separate metals, there are conveyor belts with eddy current generator rollers. As the waste goes off the end, ferrous metals are pulled around and under, then drop free after leaving the magnetic field. The same equipment induces a magnetic field in non-ferrous metals, of opposite polarity, so they’re pushed away. Non-metallic waste drops straight down.

      The metals get sold to refineries while the non-metallic waste goes to further processing. Here’s where the sewage water comes in. After passing through a centrifuge and screens to remove solids, and UV light to kill bacteria, the water is used to so density separation of the waste. Separating what floats from what sinks. Denser materials can be separated by bubbling. Different sizes of air bubbles adhere well to different materials. So varying bubble sizes float different types of material up to be skimmed off. Paper fibers would be strained out and saved for a later stage.

      Another sorting method can be used for glass or plastic pieces that have the same density or otherwise couldn’t be separated by float or bubbling. Spread the chunks across a conveyor which passes over rows of air jets, with the jets angled progressively more to the left and right. As the pieces pass under cameras, they’re tagged by the computer vision by color, then an air jet triggered to kick the piece to the left or right. After passing several rows of jets, the pieces would be sorted into parallel rows on the belt, ready to be poured into separate bins.

      Liquids from roll pressing the shredded waste could be separated in settling tanks or by centrifuge. Water and contaminated water to processes for cleaning it, oils and other chemicals for fuel for the plant or to refineries.

      Where the solid, non-metallic waste and sewage extract ends up is pelletized with just enough clay to bind the pellets. These are the burner fuel. As they head for the burners, they pass through tunnels heated by waste heat from the burner exhaust and other processes. The burners would be a cyclonic style, with the pellets introduced at the bottom of the cone. Air blowers swirl them around and as they burn they get lighter and spiral up to the top where the burned out pellets dump out. The burned pellets would slide down a cooling chute designed to add heat to the incoming pellets to help them dry.

      The burned out pellets could either be crushed to mix in with clay in the incoming pellets or they could be used as concrete aggregate. If made with a type of clay that will bake into a ceramic, they’d be strong and have a huge surface area for the cement to bond to.

      All this and more are things I’ve gleaned from reading about developments in waste handling and recycling, most of it has existed for 30 or more years. So why haven’t we had fully automated plants putting this all together?

      1. Cost. Why spend money cleaning up your own mess when you can maximize profits and let someone else deal with your garbage on their nickle. Now you can pay your CEO 100x the average employees wage.

  6. Don’t forget the empties, was a commonly heard call when going to the grocery half a century ago. Milk bottles were set out for the milkman. With all of this home delivery going on now why no dairy delivery? Convenience is the problem not the item itself. This mixed product is simply not recyclable except burnable. The paper juice containers can’t be pulped effectively into paper.

  7. >they are also readily recyclable when separated from their caps.

    The dirty secret is that when making new PET bottles, they can only add up to around 10% recycled plastic without degrading the end product, because the polymers degrade by the heat of re-melting them, UV light, and the stuff that they put in the bottles such as acids and ethanol, and the chemicals used to wash them.

    Most PET bottles that are “recycled” are instead down-cycled into cheap polyester fiber, which is then mixed with elastane (spandex) and cotton to make cheap throw-away clothes, which makes them non-recycleable because it becomes practically impossible to separate them.

    1. It’s kinda like the building industry claiming to recycle concrete – actually, what they do is use some of the rubble as a part of the aggregate and put the rest into landfill, because there is actually no process to recycle concrete. If you kept “recycling” concrete this way, it would eventually become just calcium carbonate/silicate as more fresh cement is needed every time and the rocks used for aggregate would keep diminishing. The resulting concrete would become useless.

      Likewise, until there is a process to return PET or any other plastic down to the basic monomers, and then re-joining them into polymers in a controlled fashion, plastics recycling is basically a sham. It can be accomplished by boiling it all back down to “oil” and re-constituting it back to polymers the usual way, but it’s extremely energy intensive and not economical because we already have oil. That’s why it isn’t done – everyone just keeps pretending.

      1. That’s part of greenwashing: when consumers believe it’s an environmentally friendly product, they’re more willing to ignore the price tag, which the corporations exploit to sell cheap products at higher prices.

  8. >PET bottles suffer from one problem though that isn’t shared by their glass equivalents, they are gas-permeable.

    They solved that problem by introducing the new single-use PET bottle that is much thinner than than its re-usable predecessors, yet it is “recyclable” in the sense that they do collect them back and do something with the material, and the secret is that they made the bottle double-layer with a film of nylon. You can find this out by taking one of the thin-wall bottles, slicing it open, and finding that indeed they do separate into two layers.

    The inner layer is made of nylon, which keeps the CO2 in and the oxygen out, but this makes these bottles mixed plastics and practically non-recyclable. Theoretically, you can shred the bottles and separate the plastics by density, since the layers do de-laminate, but you can’t ensure that they don’t stick together and cross-contaminate, which is why the cycle cannot be closed. It keeps getting worse and worse each cycle, which is why they only recycle the minimum amount required by law, or to say they recycle, and discard or down-cycle the rest.

  9. Humans are really good at making life difficult for themselves. They insist on convenience but they are unwilling to accept the consequences. They will endure great hardship and inflict great pain upon themselves for the pleasure of drinking ice cold sugar water. Evolution will have the last laugh.

  10. SODASTREAM eliminates this problem entirely.

    They solved this problem 15 years ago. if coke & pepsi would partner with them, and sell their syrup cheaply, problem solved. Win win, shipping costs could be greatly diminished, water transportation eliminated, and greater profits and savings for all. If you buy your own bottles and only have to purchase the syrup, then what is the issue?

    Just buy https://sodastream.com/

        1. Not very absorbent, difficult to keep sanitary, requires lots of chemicals, water and energy, to wash properly, doesn’t offer any real advantage over single-use cellulose nappies.

          Basically – imagine if you went to the loo on your pillow. How do you get the padding clean? Even if you did wash it, would you sleep on it again? Now consider this would happen daily for a couple years, with the same pillow.

          1. But you don’t sleep on nappies, you wrap them round your nether regions like you do with underwear. Just that underwear doesn’t see quite the same amount of soilage.

            Maybe you’re talking about different cloth nappies that include some padding? I’m talking about literally a piece of cloth, basically a towel, folded up and pinned with a good old safety pin.

          2. True, but it’s the same point. You wouldn’t want to sit around in dirty undies either. Cloth nappies if not properly cleaned can even grow mold. The end result is diaper rash or an infection.

            >a towel, folded up and pinned

            That’s called a “flat” diaper, and they’re still in use, but the disposable form-fitting nappy was invented precisely because these types don’t really hold anything – they drip through. Modern re-usable diapers tend to involve some sort of padding for absorption and a liner to actually contain whatever is deposited inside. Consequently, they’re made with elastane bands and other plastics, which means they can’t be boiled clean, so you have to use chemicals and lots of water.


          3. >or their millennia of successful use

            Nappies became common around the end of the 19th century. Not much earlier people didn’t even understand that bacteria cause disease, and didn’t bother to keep much hygiene. Babies often wore no diapers and mothers would simply guess when they’re about to expel, which is a method still used in the poorest countries.

          1. I think it’s because the softeners in the plastic eventually evaporate or dissolve (mmm… into your drink), which turns them brittle, which reminds me that the entire valve system is made out of plastic as well – only the CO2 canister is metal.

          2. I can’t remember when I bought mine, but the bottle says “Do not use after 4/2013”. I think I have used it a small handful of times since.

            Some sources say 36 months depending on use.

    1. Sodastream has been around since the 70s at least, they relaunch like they’re the latest thing every few years, sell a bunch of machines, then keep hiking the prices of the refills and flavoring until everyone sends the machine to the landfill, then repeat.

      1. I still have mine.

        The problem with the machine is, it stays at home so I can’t have soda on the go unless I prepare it in advance. The second problem is, all the flavor syrups are too expensive and frankly a little crap. The third problem is, you have to make a liter of soda at a time when all you’d want is a small can. The fourth problem is, soda is not a part of a healthy diet – having your own soda machine is not warranted in the first place.

        1. Buy the bag in box syrup from your local coke or pepsi bottler then get one of the valves off eBay to plug into the bag nozzle. For the Soda Stream machine, get one of the brass adapters to connect to a large CO2 tank. Some people drill a hole in their kitchen counter for the gas hose and put the tank in the cabinet below.

          1. Club soda appears to be the only real use of a Sodastream, but then again you’re just making bubbly water without any flavoring or minerals. Unless you’re mixing drinks, why would you? If you are, how many drinks are you mixing to need a soda fountain?

            Bubbly water isn’t “healthy” – it’s just acidic water that’s dissolving the enamel off your teeth if you drink it as a habit. If you want healthy, just drink water.

  11. I got to 59 without any problem at all. I’d have died two years ago if not for the work Dr. Fauci did on my rare disease. I probably have a limited life now, I’m not planning to fight it.

    So some pleasure is worth the tradeoff. Lots of things other people do will limit their life.

    1. Oh please spare me the details, I really don’t need to know how you pleasure yourself and I am not interested in anecdotes, as there is no room in the hard science for such things.

  12. Just go back to glass bottles.
    It worked well for a large portion of the 20th century, recycling, reuse, and all.
    Even better, glass is utterly harmless in the environment once mechanically broken down (smashed to bits, which is lots of fun to do).

  13. The industry has been kicking “paper bottles” back and forth for a decade now, with the cosmetics industry focusing the other attempts at eco-marketing.

    Coca Cola’s “biobased” materials are just the usual PET formulations that use glycol from ethanol fuel plants (another argument for another day) rather than petroleum feedstock, and do it for the marketing value. No word on the terephthalic acid’s source.

    Recycling/return/reuse is in a state of constant flux, much of it driven by economics:

    For container materials, paper is recycled for pulp if there’s a market for it – Nine Dragons Paper in China depended on US paper for its source material and the world market is still strong, glass is recycled in places that have the facilities to do so (the Owens-Brockway plant in Portland, Oregon is a good example) and plastic is often left foundering depending on type, separation and end-use. With China’s stopping of imported waste materials (officially, anyway), the economics of it all have been turned on their ear so a lot of the material is either being used as fuel in the MSW facilities that can handle it (US CONEG states, Denmark’s Copenhill project etc.) and the rest goes to landfill as it’s the least expensive option.

  14. In many parts of Central America they sterilize and re-use glass bottles for soda and beer. Nothing like drinking the occasional Fanta in a bottle that looks like it’s been kicking around since 1992. On Caye Caulker in Belize you buy your case of Belikin beer in a “milk crate” full of heavy glass bottles… you get your deposit back when you return the crate and the bottles. Doing that on a much larger scale is difficult at best but it seems like it could be worth it.

  15. you know.. when I was a lad, back in the 1970’s in London UK, we had glass bottles.
    you’d take them back to the shop, get 5-10p back, they’d be taken back to the factory, cleaned, then refilled and reused.
    same for Milk bottles.. that were mainly delivered daily by an electric milkfloat…

    then the 80’s happened. suddenly it was more “cost effective” and “convenient” to have plastic and just throw it away…

    and now.. we reap what we sow.

    welcome to the human race. always looking for the “easy” path. the “cheap” path. then finding out we screwed up….

    1. This. I remember the village child industry of collecting Corona bottles for the 10p deposit. Unfortunately, free market forces is used by politicians as an excuse and short term outlook is the norm – has it always been this way?

  16. This might be a dumb question, but is organic decomposition really preferable to plastic sitting around? My understanding is that a very small portion of plastics make it to the oceans etc, whereas the entirety of the CO2 and heat from composted cardboard are going into the atmosphere. People often say things like “that shopping bag is going to be in that landfill for 1000 years” or whatever, but I’m honestly confused as to why that’s a problem. Obviously reduce/reuse/recycle is best (in that order), but I don’t understand the push for compostable. Are there factors I’m missing or not understanding? Or does “microplastics” just sound scary and “compostable” sounds cozy?

    1. It sort-of ties in with the whole organic farming fad.

      People who have no idea about farming are making up regulations to turn waste into compost with the fantasy that it would be used on farms to displace chemical fertilizers, when in reality it just goes into big piles for “landscaping”, such as highway noise walls, because the farms won’t accept random waste that contains who knows what even if it is “composted”.

  17. When I was a kid (1990), glass beer bottles could be bought in heavily built cardboard cases, and then bars or consumers could return the case to the store or distributor with the empty bottles. I understand Spain does something similar with Coca-Cola. Aside from the added weight of glass bottles adding to cost of transport, I think it would be best to go back to such a model. And glass, if not recycled, eventually just breaks up is is ground down to silica anyway (rocks and sand).

  18. Glass bottles worked fine. Here was the problem. The soda companies did not want to pay to have the bottles hauled both ways. The delivery drivers picked them up. Also the stores saw storing empty bottles as a waste of space that they preferred to use for storing saleable products. Glass bottles also meant less payload on the transport trucks due to their weight.

    1. Back when I was young, there were no plastic, so you had glass or steel or nothing. People dealt with it quite successfully. Then came cheaper plastic and the accountants swooned over the cost savings to their operations regardless of environmental impact to everyone else and the transport system returned home empty.

  19. Bier comes in glass bottles, is returned to the source, washed, refilled, and reused. Stores are required to take them back for €0.08 per, which is a lot less than the 0.25 on plastic. Don’t know what that means.

    True story: a few years ago in Munich, so many people had bought and stockpiled Augustiner for the summer grill season that they had a temporary bottle shortage. They were begging people to drink and return their bottles. (If that was a marketing gimmick, it was a clever one, but for a while there _were_ stockouts.)

    1. I stopped buying beer in glass bottles because of how heavy it is, even the empties, and the embarrassment of waddling to the bottle return booth in the store with two clinking plastic bags in your hands.

  20. In Brazil, Coca Cola for years uses returnable PETs ( REF PET ), which each year has become the standard for almost all of the company’s products here.

    Returnable pet, Glass bottles, and she didn’t even need a crazy law forcing the company, she just realized that she can save on packaging, and increase consumption (Returnable bottle has discount)

    Initially some complained about the initial low carbonation rate (beta test), today the returnable version has one of the highest carbonation rates due to the resistance of the used pet.


Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.