Flax bottle seeks to offer eco-friendly alternative for wine, beer and spirits
Made from a flax fibre composite, its inventors believe the bottle will initially appeal to eco-conscious consumers in the high-end market; but could eventually provide a wide-spread bio-based alternative to glass, which has a higher carbon footprint.
"As brands seek to produce sustainably, our bottle is the innovation that will trigger the entry of high-end wines and spirits into effective eco-responsibility,” says James de Roany, chairman of SAS Green Gen Technologies. “The world of wine, beer and spirits must take responsibility by using the most eco-friendly and recyclable packaging possible.
“Our "Zero-glass bottle" intends to play an important role in this direction by first entering the high-end market. Later, when production lines are more automated, the production of flax reinforced and production costs reduced, our bottle may involve products with lower added value.”
After three years of development, the first flax fibre bottles will arrive on the market this year and the company has ambitions for production to reach 1.5m bottles in 2019.
‘Eco-responsibility and sustainability are fundamental global trends’
Green Gen technologies sees a growing market of consumers who are concerned about the environment and are prepared to make purchasing decisions based on the environment. In luxury brands this is particularly true as they seek to differentiate themselves.
“The market potential for natural fibre composite containers is considerable as both eco-responsibility and sustainability are at the heart of the concerns of consumers and distributors,” said de Roany.
“These notions have become fundamental trends and the protection of the environment has become a priority purchase criterion. Our containers are potentially suitable for all markets where glass is used as packaging. We have particularly targeted alcoholic drinks and cosmetics.
“The potential market is huge. It may one day concern all bottles of wine, beer or spirits whatever their destinations on domestic or export markets.”
The majority of alcoholic beverages are packaged in glass, which is recyclable. However, glass must reach temperatures of 1550 °C (2822°F) during production and thus requires a considerable amount of energy. In addition, glass is heavy which adds to the carbon footprint created during transportation.
In contrast, the bio-based flax bottle is made of a flax fibre composite, without any glass, and primarily aimed at premium wine, beer, spirits and cosmetics. According to Green Gen, the bottle can handle alcohol content up to 60% ABV, has no impact on taste, and can use traditional corks. Resistance to shock is higher than that of a traditional glass bottle.
A 75cl bottle (the typical size for a wine bottle) weighs 190 grams: a weight saving of 300g – 1kg compared to a glass bottle (depending on the type of bottle and glass). It is bio-based and is biodegradable when crushed and placed in the presence of bacteria.
“The container is made from a cylindrical and preformed flax braid having a uniform appearance,” explains the company.
“It is then impregnated with a thermoplastic resin of vegetable origin and cooked according to a very complex and precise process to give an ultra-strong composite.
“A composite material is an assembly of at least two immiscible components (but having a high penetration capacity) whose properties are complementary (flax-braid and bio-based resin). The new heterogeneous material thus formed has properties that the components alone do not have.
“This phenomenon makes it possible to obtain a very light container with high technical performances. The resin highlights the flax bronze colour and gives a smooth, satin, upscale look to the hull as well as a pleasant touch and a beautiful aesthetic. It is also possible to stain the fibre from natural colourants.”
Flax: a new era of development
Flax is mainly produced in north west Europe, with France accounting for 67% of production.
“Its cultivation does not require irrigation nor phytosanitary products. It is therefore a champion of sustainable agriculture,” says Green Gen.
The plant has been used since ancient times in textiles, but has entered a 'new era of development' with some 10% of flax production now devoted to other areas.
“Flax composites (linen + resin) are more and more used for their high technical performance and especially in the automobile (Tesla and others), eco-construction, insulation, sports equipment (skiing, snow shoes, mountain biking, surfing...), aeronautics and even space (SpaceX is equipped!)”
Bio-based and biodegradable
Industrial scale production is due to start this year, and the bottle can be used with conventional bottling lines. The first three formats in production are a Burgundy style bottle in 50 cl (wines & spirits), 70cl (spirits) and 75 cl (wines).
“Our bottle is revolutionary in that it will decrease – and why not eventually see disappear – glass packaging in favour of containers of plant origin with a negative carbon footprint (the plant absorbs more carbon that is needed to produce the bottle),” says the company.
The bottle is currently 91% bio-based. This is because there is not yet an FDA/EU approved inner food grade film made from natural vegetable plastics that can resist an alcoholic beverage. However, the company believes that a PLA plastic will be available in 12-18 months to address this.
While the company is starting with flax, GGT’s patents cover all plant fibres and the company says it expects to be able to launch bamboo, hemp and sugar cane containers within the next two years.
Pictures: Green Gen (main); Getty/lior2 (inset)