Coors Light will eliminate plastic rings from packaging globally, its parent company Molson Coors announced earlier this month.
To support the move to more sustainable packaging, Molson Coors is investing $85 million, allowing Coors Light to transition to what the brand says is fully recyclable and sustainably sourced cardboard-wrap carriers by the end of 2022. This positions the brewer to become the largest beer brand in North America to move away from plastic rings.
Molson Coors’ investment will upgrade packaging machinery, which also allows the company’s entire North American portfolio of brands to move to cardboard wrap carriers by the end of 2025. In total, the move by Molson Coors will save 1.7 million pounds of plastic waste annually — 400,000 pounds of which will be from Coors Light packaging, the equivalent to 2500 kegs of beer, according to the brand’s sustainability website.
The new packaging debuted at the “Plastic-Free Future Mart by Coors Light,” a super sustainable pop-up concept store at 603 Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn, N.Y., which was open from March 2 to 6. The concept store was intended to model as inspiration and a vision for a world with no single-use plastics.
“We believe that buying beer shouldn’t mean buying plastic,” said Marcelo Pascoa, a vice president of marketing for Coors. “That’s why we’re taking a step toward making packaging even more sustainable, and with this achievement Coors Light will save 400,000 pounds of single-use plastic from becoming waste every year.”
Eliminating plastic rings from Coors Light is the latest step in an sustainability effort Molson Coors announced in 2017, whose primary areas of focus are water, climate and packaging. In 2021, Molson Coors removed plastic rings across all major brands sold in the United Kingdom, including Coors and Carling, and transitioned to recyclable cardboard sleeves. Molson Coors in Canada moved to more sustainable plastic rings in 2021 as an initial step. Last year, Coors Light and Ball Corporation announced an agreement to bring the recyclable Ball Aluminum Cup to guests at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
All these measures have pushed Molson Coors closer to its goal of using packaging that is 100 reusable, recyclable or compostable, and consumer-facing plastic packaging is made from at least 30 percent recycled content by the end of 2025.
The first global analysis of all plastics ever made published in 2017 in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances underscores the urgency of eliminating plastic waste. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced since the mass production of plastic began more than 60 years ago, about 6.3 billion metric tons has ended up as plastic waste. Of that amount, just nine percent has been recycled; almost 80 percent of it has ended up in landfills or is now within the natural environment as litter. At some point, much of it ends up in the oceans.
Because plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, most of it still exists in some form and just 12 percent has been incinerated. If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. That amount is 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building, according to National Geographic.
The beer industry says it is becoming more sustainable, and a recent profile on Environmental Leader helps to back up such claims. Heineken aims to be a carbon-neutral producer of beer by 2030 and have a carbon-neutral supply chain, including agriculture, packaging, distribution and cooling, by 2040. The Danish beer giant Carlsberg’s Together Towards Zero sustainability strategy includes targets to halve carbon emissions at its breweries by this year. Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Belgium, is one of the largest buyers of barley globally for its brands including Budweiser, Corona, Beck’s and Leffe. In a pilot project in Europe, it is using blockchain technology to track where the barley in every beer comes from.
Last summer, Anheuser-Busch announced a $64 million plan at its Los Angeles brewery that will include a new solar power installation in addition to the rollout of new emissions-reduction technologies. As a result, company said that the L.A. brewery will be home to the largest solar installation of any U.S. brewery, with that solar power system generating more than 10 percent of its electricity requirements.
Considering how much water is needed to brew beer, it's not surprising that investments in water technologies are becoming more commonplace. For example, as reported last fall, Anchor Brewing, the oldest brewery in San Francisco, built an on-site water treatment plant within its brewery; the company said the new system will be able to recycle as many as to 20 million gallons of water a year.
Image credit: Molson Coors via Facebook
Gary E. Frank is a writer with more than 30 years of experience encompassing journalism, marketing, media relations, speech writing, university communications and corporate communications.