When Coca-Cola releases a new beverage, it’s not just the stuff inside the bottle that gets a lot of thought. For Barista Bros, a range of iced coffee flavoured milk that recently went to market, the team had to come up with some innovative solutions to ensure their product was recyclable.

Milk based products are sensitive to light, therefore light barrier protection is needed for shelf stable products. One option is to use opaque bottle however this reduces their recycling potential and at best end up being down-cycled in the mixed plastic stream.

The Coca-Cola system aims to achieve a bottle-to-bottle recycling model, which means we want the bottle we produce to end up as another PET bottle once it is recycled,” explained Coca-Cola South Pacific packaging manager, Joanne Wong. “ During the plastic sorting process, opaque plastic bottles won’t end up in the high value clear PET recycling stream. It may end up in lower value recycling stream however we wanted a solution to ensure we keep theses bottles in the loop to be recycled back into bottles.

So, the product design team came up with an innovative compromise: they’d still use clear PET plastic, but they’d surround the bottle with a shrink-wrap with black print on the back as a light barrier to protect the product. If you drink a bottle of Barista Bros, you remove the shrink-wrap before tossing it in the recycling. “The advantage of using a shrink sleeve is that once removed, the clear PET bottle is left with no other traces of material that can contaminate the recycling processes. It’s now a high value item for recyclers,” said Joanne.

Unzipping the Design

In order to help consumers understand the packaging, the design team came up with a visual style to prompt them to peel the wrapper. Not only did the design team use text and images, they decided to use consumers’ sense of touch.

“There’s a zipper perforation on the side of the pack and a two-step process in that prompts consumers to remove that label to aid recycling,” said Coca-Cola South Pacific marketing manager Ben Cummings. “From a tactile point of view you can actually feel that perforation so people will be prompted to explore for themselves what it is.”

Overseas, the practice of removing the wrapper is actually quite common, but Australian consumers have yet to catch on. “Consumers in other countries where recycling is just part of normal daily practices are doing this without being prompted,” said Joanne. “We want to leverage our scale and reach to start influencing and educating Australian consumers to not only recycle more, but to recycle effectively.”

Awarded for Innovation

The design has landed Barista Bros wins at the 2014 Australian Packaging Awards, announced on November 27, 2014. The innovative new packaging took out gold in the Sustainability category and silver in the Beverage category.

Judges were impressed by Barista Bros design challenging the category with a new pack format, along with the overall branding and messaging around how to dispose of the pack.