Whiskey has gained a lot of cultural cachet over the years. Cowboys drink it. Secret agents drink it. Even serial killers drink it. But the familiar clink of the bottle has been the same no matter who it’s served to. That is, until now. And the world will be better for it.
Diageo, one of the world’s biggest producers of spirits, will start releasing one line of its Johnnie Walker whiskey in a paper bottle in early 2021. Nothing about the caramel-colored liquor will change, but the environmental impact will be significantly lessened.
Whereas the current bottle is made of translucent glass and plastic, the new one is made from sustainably sourced, food-safe wood pulp. It’s finished in a moody and alluring opaque matte black, with the name in contrasting white type. It’s also 100% plastic-free and completely recyclable, according to the company. Yes, glass is recyclable, too, but it tends to have a bigger environmental footprint because it’s heaver it ship, which adds to its carbon footprint. And even though the original glass bottle doesn’t have much plastic, any decrease is a good thing—91% of the 300 million tons of plastic we produce a year isn’t recycled at all, according to the NRDC.
Diageo’s new bottle is a bigger deal than just a change in one whiskey’s package design. Through it’s new sustainable packaging R&D company Pulpex Limited, it’s creating a consortium with major brands, and Unilever and Pepsi have already signed on to roll out paper bottles in 2021. That’s great news if these companies follow through, because PepsiCo is one of the worst single-use plastic waste offenders out there. More partners will be announced later this year, according to Diageo.
Diageo hasn’t disclosed whether it will roll out paper bottles to its other spirits, but if packaging design continues in this direction, it could very well be time to pour one out for plastic.