Diageo and ecoSPIRITS Pioneer Sustainable Refill Solutions to Combat Single-Use Glass Packaging in the Beverage Industry  

Diageo and ecoSPIRITS Pioneer Sustainable Refill Solutions to Combat Single-Use Glass Packaging in the Beverage Industry  


Thomas Reiner | 03.05.2024

In response to the environmental impact of single-use glass packaging, Diageo has partnered with ecoSPIRITS to change beverage distribution using the “ecoTOTE” system a sustainable, refillable vessel. The ecoTOTE, is part of a closed-loop system that reduces the need for new bottles, demonstrating up to 95% reduction in glass usage in initial trials. This partnership is chance to make a step towards sustainable packaging solutions in the beverage industry, emphasizing both environmental and economic benefits. 


Given the staggering environmental impact of single-use glass packaging in the beverage industry, major players are now stepping up in the attempt to address these challenges head-on. Among them is Diageo, a global leader with over 200 brands sold in nearly 180 countries, which has committed to an initiative in collaboration with ecoSPIRITS. Their shared goal is to transform the way spirits are packaged and distributed in bars and pubs. 



The Challenge 

Annually, an estimated 689 billion units of glass are produced for various purposes, with around 70 billion dedicated to wine and spirits bottles alone. The carbon footprint of these bottles is startlingly high, averaging 550 grams of CO2 emissions per bottle. This adds up to a total of 38.5 million metric tons of CO2 each year—a figure that starkly illustrates the scale of the issue. 

To illustrate the impact of 38.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, consider the following comparisons: 


– The annual emissions from about 7.8 million cars, which is comparable to the total number of cars in the Netherlands. 

– The carbon footprint equivalent to about 4.5 million long-haul flights from New York to London. 

– The emissions from heating and powering roughly 4.5 million average households (in the U.S.)  for a year. 

– The amount of carbon sequestered annually by approximately 2.6 million hectares of mature forest. 



The Players 

Diageo, known for its extensive portfolio and market reach with over 200 Brands and 132 Production sites, has embarked on this transformative partnership with ecoSPIRITS, a startup dedicated to promoting circular economy solutions. This collaboration is specifically designed to tackle the significant carbon emissions associated with traditional glass bottle packaging. By introducing ecoSPIRITS’ innovative “ecoTOTE” systems, Diageo aims to significantly reduce waste and the carbon footprint of its operations, aligning with broader environmental sustainability goals. 

Therefore, the switch to the ecoTOTES is part of Diageo’s broader “Society 2030” sustainability program, which aims for net-zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable energy use in production. The new system is supposed to be not only environmentally beneficial but also cost-effective for bars and pubs, which could reduce both their carbon footprint and operational costs. 



The Execution 

Under this partnership, Diageo will distribute popular spirits like Gordon’s gin, Captain Morgan rum, and Smirnoff vodka using ecoSPIRITS’ innovative “ecoTOTE” systems. These are refillable 4.5-liter vessels, encased in a durable combination of plastic and aluminum, designed for up to 150 uses. By replacing traditional 750-milliliter glass bottles, each ecoTOTE can save up to 900 bottles from being used. 

The ecoTOTE system works on a closed-loop model. Once the vessels are empty, they are returned to one of ecoSPIRITS’ regional ecoPLANT hubs, where they are cleaned, refilled, and sent back into circulation.  

The initial trials of this system in Bali and Jakarta have shown promising results, with a potential reduction of up to 95% in glass bottle usage. Encouraged by these outcomes, Diageo plans to expand the use of ecoTOTES to 18 markets over the next three years. 

This approach is driving the transition from linear to circular packaging solutions in the beverage business. It tries to not only address environmental concerns but also hopes to set a new standard in the operational efficiencies for a global standard. 



Partnership and scale equals Impact

As we consider the lifecycle of glass bottles, ecoSPIRITS introduces an enhancement by adding an internal loop to the recycling process including the cleaning, refilling, and redistribution of their ecoTOTE containers. The actuall frequency with which each ecoTOTE will cycle through this loop (up to 150x) before re-entering the broader recycling system is a key factor in the overall effectiveness of this initiative. Part of this is the acceptance by potential partners within the spirits and gastronomy sector, apparently proven by collaboration with the likes of Diageo.  

The system is interesting and dives into a real pain point with a reasonable solution when effectively executed and adopted on a broader scale. To ensure this each ecoTOTE is comprised of four distinct components, necessitating meticulous tracking and management to ensure they are properly recycled at the end of their usable life. This careful monitoring is essential to achieve clean recycling outcomes and significant environmental benefits that ecoSPIRITS and Diageo are striving for.  


Image Source: © Adobe Stock

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