We consider the environment in the entire product life cycle from planning and product design to transport and post-consumption recycling.
Setting Environmental Standards for Containers and Packaging
Containers and packaging protect and preserve the quality of products until reaching the customers. However, most of them become waste after the content is consumed by the customer. Suntory Group recognizes the social and environmental impacts that containers and packaging cause and established voluntary "Guidelines for the Environmental Design of Containers and Packaging" in 1997. Designs are made following the Guideline such as selecting material for labels and color of glass bottles that consider recycling. In addition, we are engaging in initiatives from the stand point of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to reduce environmental impact of containers and packaging.
3Rs of Containers and Packaging
The Suntory Group works to develop containers and packaging that give consideration to the environment, based on the 3Rs of "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle". We work on reducing the weight, using materials with less environmental impact, and designing packaging that is easy to recycle, while taking into consideration usability from the time customers drink the product to the time it is recycled. We also work in collaboration with various recycling organizations and local governments to promote recycling.
3Rs of Containers and Packaging
As a measure to minimize environmental impact, we design and develop our products by minimizing the amount of resources used and actively introducing renewable resources, while taking into consideration ease of use for our customers.
In regards to plastic bottle containers, we are striving forward according to our 2R+B strategy that is unique to Suntory. The concept is to replace petroleum-derived raw materials with renewable raw materials to the extent possible, while reducing the amount of resin used and using recycled materials in development to achieve thorough and effective use of resources.
Environmentally-friendly Green Eco Bottle*1
The 550mL Suntory Tennensui natural mineral water is packaged in the most lightweight PET bottle in Japan*2 (11.9g).
The bottle design was developed using Suntory’s own technology, and it allows us to reduce the use of petroleum-derived ingredients by approximately 40% per bottle. By bringing the weight to 29.8g, we were the first in Japan to achieve the weight of less than 30g for 2L bottles.
*1An original name we give to PET bottles that have reduced environmental impact by using methods such as ground breaking weight saving such as realizing lightest weight bottle in Japan or using plant based materials.
*2Plastic bottles for mineral water (500mL to 600mL) in Japan. As of November 2020
Introducing Record Breaking Thinnest Roll Label*1 for Plastic Bottle Beverages in Japan
We are reducing the weight of product labels on plastic bottles to reduce environmental impact. We were able to realize the thinnest plastic bottle roll label in Japan at 16㎛ (micrometer*2) in 2012. An even thinner label at 12㎛ has been introduced to the 2L plastic bottles and 550mL plastic bottles of our Suntory Tennensui mineral water in April 2014. Thereafter, we have been advancing the expansion to all of our products that use roll labels. This has allowed us to reduce CO2 emissions by 25%*3 compared to conventional labels.
*1Labels that peel off from the glued area instead of peeling off at the perforations
*3Reduction rate in the film (label) manufacturing process
Adoption of bottle cap that uses 100% bio-based PET materials*1.
We are also reducing our environmental impact in the bottle caps on plastic bottles. Since September 2016, we have adopted 1.85g bottle caps, which are the lightest in Japan*2 that use 30% bio-based PET materials for Suntory Minami-Alps Tennensui mineral water. This innovation reduces the use of petroleum-derived raw materials by 35%*3 and decreases CO2 emissions by 27% compared to conventional PET bottle caps.
In addition, we have further evolved our environmental efforts by using bio-based materials and in March 2019, we began introducing polyethylene caps with 100% plant-derived ethylene for 550ml Suntory Aso Tennensui mineral water which is manufactured at our Kyushu Kumamoto Plant (Kamimashiki District, Kumamoto Prefecture). This innovation reduces the use of petroleum-derived raw materials by 90%*2 and decreases CO2 emissions by 56% compared to current PET bottle caps.
*1Polyethylene caps with 100% plant-derived ethylene as the main raw material. Excluding trace amounts of petroleum-derived components and colorant components at the time of production line changeover.
*2As of April 2020
*3One bottle of Suntory Tennensui Mineral Water (550mL)
*4One bottle cap of Suntory Tennensui Mineral Water (550mL)
Evaluation from Society
Suntory Foods International Ltd. received the 2016 Minister of the Environment Award for Promoters of the Development of a Recycling-Oriented Society in recognition of its environmental impact reduction activities, including the world's first introduction of beverage PET bottle caps made from 30% bio-based materials.
Primary lightweight plastic bottle products
In-house Blow Molding PET Bottles
The Suntory Group is promoting in-house molding to produce PET preforms from PET resin and blow then into PET bottles. This enables integrated design and management from bottle molding to filling, reducing the amount of resin used and also making it easier to reduce the weight of the bottle.
In addition, fuel and CO2 emissions during transportation are reduced compared to when purchasing finished PET bottles. Furthermore, by recovering and reusing the high-pressure air used in PET bottle molding, we use energy efficiently and reduce CO2 emissions.
Plastic Bottle Development in the Spirits Business
We are taking great advantage of the technology cultivated in our soft drink business in our spirits business. Suntory Spirits Ltd. has launched the 4L 110g plastic bottle, which is the lightest in Japan, to whisky products such as Kakubin, Torys and other alcoholic products starting from June 2016. By making it up to 18% lighter than the conventional 134g or 120g, the use of PET resin is reduced, resulting in an annual CO2 emissions reduction of approximately 460 tons (17%)*. We have also removed the grip used on conventional PET bottles and adopted a new deep grip section in the center of the bottle for ease of use in collaboration with the PET bottle manufacturer.
*Based on our calculations
Development of World's Lightest* Heat-resistant Plastic Bottles Leveraging Japanese Technological Capabilities
The Japanese manufacturing technology and design capabilities for reducing weight of plastic bottles have been used in Group companies in Europe.
In 2017, we have successfully developed a heat-resistant PET bottle for Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam in Vietnam that is the lightest in the world (18 g). Creating the lightest heat-resistant bottle project was a technological challenge in this region, but we have succeeded in the project through mutual cooperation with Suntory MONOZUKURI Expert, Ltd. and Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam Beverage Co., Ltd.
As an initiative to further reduce the weight of PET bottles, we utilized a technology to prevent bottles from deforming by injecting nitrogen and pressurizing the bottle. In 2020, we successfully developed world's lightest 15g PET bottle in the heat‐resistant filling container category that also pursued functionality, versatility and design and introduced it to Suntory PepsiCo Beverage (Thailand) and Suntory Garuda Beverage in Indonesia. We plan to introduce it to Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam in Vietnam in the future.
*In the 500 ml class of heat-resistant PET bottles (as of April 2020, according to our research)
PET Bottle Self-Manufacturing Technology at Beam Suntory
Beam Suntory has been introducing its first bottle self-brewing technology for 1.75L spirits since 2017. This self-manufacturing process has enabled weight reduction of bottles by 14%. In addition, reduction in weight and transporting preforms instead of bottles have greatly improved efficiency in transport, contributing to the reduction of environmental impact.
Recycle: Recycling Plastic Bottles
PET Resin Horizontal Recycling through PET Bottle Recycle in Japan
In 2011, Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. partnered with Kyoei Sangyo Co., Ltd. to develop the Japanese beverage industry’s first B-to-B*1 mechanical recycling system*2 for PET bottles.
Reused PET resin was 50% at the time of introduction but after confirming that stable supply was possible after about a year of operation, we increased the percentage of reused PET resin to 100%. This PET bottle using 100% reused PET resin is used for many products including 2L Suntory Oolong Tea and Iyemon.
This system received Commendation for Contributors to the Development of a Recycling-oriented Society in 2011 and 2012, and Commendation for Global Warming Prevention (Technological Development and Commercialization Category) in 2011 both from the Minister of the Environment, and Nikkei Global Environmental Technology Excellence Award in 2011 for the first time in the food industry. We also received the 21st Global Environment Award in 2012 and Environmental Excellence Award hosted by the Hitachi Environment Foundation and Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd. in 2013.
The recycled PET bottles produced by mechanical recycling take on a color during the process but they have no quality issues and safety issues. The mechanical recycling system have highest cost efficiency and lowest environmental impact*3 (CO2 emissions from raw material procurement to preform manufacturing) among PET bottle recycling systems adopted in Japan as of 2022.
*1B-to-B: "Bottle to bottle," signifying the creation of a new PET bottle from a recycled one.
*2Mechanical recycling: A method in which recycled resin obtained by material recycling (used products are processed by crushing, washing, and made into raw materials for products again) is further processed under high temperature and reduced pressure for a certain period of time to remove impurities in the recycled material and make PET resin of suitable quality for beverage containers.
*3Based on our research
Adoption of F-to-P direct recycling technology
In 2017, as part of our recycling efforts, we collaborated with Kyoei Sangyo Co., Ltd. and overseas machinery manufacturers (EREMA in Austria and SIPA in Italy) to develop F-to-P direct recycling technology which is expected to further reduce environmental impact. We began production in the fall of 2018. F-to-P direct recycling technology is a technology that can directly manufacture preforms after melting and filtering flakes made from collected PET bottles that have been crushed and washed at high temperatures. The F-to-P direct recycling technology can reduce CO2 emissions by 70%* compared to virgin PET bottles. ( Current mechanical recycle can reduce CO2 emissions by 60%*.)
*Processes from used PET bottles to the preform production.
Active Implementation of Recycled PET Bottles within the Group
To achieve the 2030 fully sustainable PET bottle goal, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe aims to achieve 50% recycled contents in its PET bottles by 2025 or sooner.
Suntory Beverage & Food Europe brand Ribena was the first soft drinks brand in the UK to use a 100% PET bottle made from recycled plastic in 2007.The company has been increasing its use of recycled plastic - in 2021 this included the introduction of 100% recycled PET in May Tea and Pulco in France. In 2022, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe has started 100% recycled PET bottles in its Lucozade Sport brand in the UK and Ireland.
Suntory Beverage & Food Asia Pacific, with its main operations in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, is also strengthening its efforts on recycling and has introduced the company's first 100% recycled PET bottles in Vietnam in 2022.
Development of The World's First PET Bottle Chemically Recycled with Enzyme Technology
Suntory Beverage & Food Europe is investing in a French green biotech company Carbios' enzymatic PET recycling technology through a consortium with L'Oréal, Nestlé Waters and PepsiCo. Carbios' optimized enzyme breaks down any kind of PET plastic (regardless of color or complexity) into its building blocks, which can then be turned back into like-new, virgin-quality plastic. In June 2021, Carbios produced the world's first food-grade PET plastic bottle prototypes made entirely from enzymatically recycled plastic which was showcased in the company's Orangina brand. In September 2021, Carbios successfully launched a demonstration plant and aims to build an industrial facility by 2025.
Product Labels Made with Recycled PET Bottles
Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. introduced product label made with recycled PET bottles in part of 2L bottles for major non-alcoholic beverages such as (Mineral Water) Suntory Tennensui, Iyemon and Suntory Oolong Tea in November 2010 and currently uses role label* method for all its products.
This label is the first role label in the industry to use recycled PET bottles and the percentage of recycle PET used has been increased from 60% to 80% in March 2012.
*Labels that peel off from the glued area instead of peeling off at the perforations
Bio: Active Use of Plant-based Resin
Aiming for 100% plant-based plastic
The Suntory Group aims to replace petroleum-derived raw materials with renewable raw materials as much as possible in the development of plastic bottles. We implemented plastic bottles that use 30% bio-based PET materials for the Suntory Tennensui mineral water 550ml in 2013.
Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Anellotech, Inc., a green innovation and technology company in the United States, have worked in a collaborative development of a plastic bottle that uses 100% plant-derived raw materials, and construction has begun in 2016 on a development and testing plant to produce plastic bottle materials in the state of Texas. In the future, we are planning to introduce PET bottles made from 100% plant-based materials for Suntory Tennensui mineral water brand of Suntory Beverage & Foods Ltd. In the development process, we aim to produce "paraxylene," a precursor of terephthalic acid which constitutes 70% of PET bottle materials, exclusively from inedible plant-based materials (woodchips) so as not to affect the supply chain of materials for food use.
We has successfully created a prototype PET bottle made from 100% plant-based materials in 2021. This marks a breakthrough after a nearly decade-long partnership with the US-based sustainable technology company Anellotech.
Cans, Glass Bottles, and Barrels
Lightweighting in Cans
We are furthering the lightweighting in cans such as those used for beer and coffee by aiming to dramatically reduce the amount of resources that are used while maintaining the usability for customers.
We have conducted initiatives for aluminum cans that include shrinking the diameter of the lid of beer cans in 2008 and the bodies of aluminum cans containing low-alcohol beverages such as beer and Chu-Hi in 2014. In addition, the promotion of even more lightweighting is underway with the introduction of thinner bodies even in steel cans for coffee.
Lightweighting in Glass Bottles
The medium-sized glass bottle for The Premium Malt's has achieved weight savings of roughly 10g to 460g in 2014. The thickness of the body section that the label is adhered has been designed 0.2 to 0.3 millimeters thinner to prevent damage by bumping into other bottles. We are also improving the shape of the bottle so it does not get damaged when opening the bottle with cap opener and other improvements in the quality of the bottle.
Reuse: Promoting Collection and Reuse of Containers
Reusing Glass Bottles and Barrels
Returnable containers (bottles, barrels) for beers and non-alcoholic beverages for restaurants are used often and we collect them via our own route and wash them for repeated use. Furthermore, we support the collection of glass bottles that are disposed of by liquor stores and restaurants through building collection routes in the distribution channel by specialized business operators since 1974.
One-way bottles are collected through effective sorting and collection routes by municipalities and other organizations.
Pilot Implementation of The "Loop", A Circular Shopping Platform
Beam Suntory’ Sipsmith has partnered with Loop and Tesco to pilot a closed loop system in 10 stores. This initiative allows consumers to purchase a Sipsmith bottle in store, sip it responsibly at home, and the return it to a participating Tesco store. Sipsmith estimates that its Loop bottle will result in 15% less carbon emissions compared to its standard bottle, in addition to glass materials diverted from landfill or recycling.
Beam Suntory is also piloting a cloud-based life cycle assessment (LCA) solution, tailored for packaging design evaluations. The software's environmental performance criteria and data will be leveraged to analyze our existing packaging and help inform future packaging decisions across our portfolio, taking into consideration packaging attributes, consumption and emissions metrics, and life cycle phases.
Paper Packs and Cardboard
Reducing Weight of Cardboard
As part of the initiative, short flap cardboard cartons for beverages of small size plastic bottles started from spring of 2012 based on the philosophy of reducing environmental impact in cooperation with the industry. Through this, we reduced the use of paper by about 20% compared to conventional cardboards. Short flap cardboards have been introduced for beer and RTD products since 2019.
Recycle: Easier-to-Collect Containers
Shifting to Recycled Paper Containers
Paper containers were introduced for shochu and spirits in April 2010 and for wines in February 2014. Approximately 90% of the containers for alcoholic beverages have been changed to more recyclable paper containers.*1
We have been using containers with evaporated aluminum on its inside for preserving quality but it was difficult to separate paper and aluminum when recycling. The new paper container implements vapor deposition of non-aluminum transparent material to improve ease of recycling.
*1As of May 2020
Achieved 100% Use of FSC®-certified Cardboard
The Suntory Group is gradually adopting paper packaging materials that have acquired the FSC certification*1 that ensures proper management of international forests for products made in Japan. Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. introduced FSC-certified cardboard packaging to Suntory Tennensui mineral water for products manufactured from August 2017. Since the end of February 2018, we have achieved 100% use of FSC-certified cardboard used for packaging all our Suntory Tennensui brand products. We are promoting the use of FSC-certified paper packaging materials throughout the Group with the sequential adoption of these materials for Suntory Spirits Ltd. products and as packaging for six packs.
*1Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that certifies timber produced from forests globally as well as the distribution and manufacturing processes of the cut timber. This certification considers the environmental conservation of these forests and recognizes timber produced in an economical and sustainable manner which generates revenue for the local community. This certification considers the environmental conservation of these forests and recognizes timber produced in an economical and sustainable manner which generates revenue for the local community.
Collaboration with Industry and Local Governments for Packaging Recycling
Establishment of R Plus Japan to Work on the Recycling of Used Plastics
12 companies(including Suntory) within the plastics supply chain established R Plus Japan Ltd., a joint venture company focused on the recycling of used plastics.
It is said that may of the plastics that are not PET bottles are being currently incinerated in Japan. This technology enables plastics including PET bottles to be chemically recycled by directly returning such plastics to benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylene, propylene and other materials. It requires less treatment process compared to other chemical recycling that require liquefaction and is hoped to reduce CO2 emissions and energy use. If this technology is established, we believe more used plastic can be recycled efficiently.
R Plus Japan will cooperate with Anellotech to develop technology for recycling used plastics that is efficient and has lower environmental impact. We will strive to achieve practical use of technology to contribute to solving the global issue of plastics through cross-industry cooperation with companies engaging in separation of collected plastics, monomer manufacturing, polymer manufacturing, package and container manufacturing as well as trading companies and beverage manufacturers.
Promoting Horizontal Recycling with Local Governments
Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. has signed an agreement on bottle-to-bottle recycling operation to recycle used PET bottles to new PET bottles jointly with the residents, local government and businesses with two cities and two towns (Takasago City, Kakogawa City and Inami and Harima in Kako District in Hyogo Prefecture) of Higashiharima in 2021, with the aim of creating a recycling-oriented society.
With this agreement, the two cities and two towns of Higashiharima and Suntory will collect and recycle used PET bottles separated by the residents as new PET bottles at a plant in the region to deliver and return them to the Higashiharima area.
Cooperation of multiple local governments and a company in bottle-to-bottle recycling as well as manufacturing, delivering and returning the recycled PET bottles all with in the region under the scheme are both first attempts in Japan. This agreement will promote bottle-to-bottle direct recycling and further strengthen environmental protection activities aimed to realize a recycling-oriented society.
Efforts to Prevent Scattering of Empty Containers
To beautify the environment and promote effective use of resources, we are engaged in activities to prevent the scattering of empty containers. We place one empty container collection box at every vending machine. We are also making efforts to raise awareness about recycling by affixing a Beautification Mark on vending machines as a way to prevent littering.
Marine Pollution Problem of Plastic Bottles
The problem of marine pollution caused by plastic containers, including plastic bottles, is becoming increasingly serious and is discussed as a global environmental issue. As a beverage company that handles many containers, we are committed to proactively addressing this issue and working with the government, local communities, and industry to resolve it. We have always been promoting 2R+B while expanding activities to raise consumer awareness about recycling.
In the future, we aim to improve the recycling rate even further in each country and region around the world and will encourage activities to promote improvements together with our various stakeholders.
In addition, as part of employee volunteer activities, employees in Japan participate in beach cleanup activity organized by a non-profit organization, while overseas, Beam Suntory employees participate in cleanup activities along the Chicago River basin, in an effort to raise awareness so that each and every employee will see this issue as his or her own and take action.
The Suntory Group formulated the Plastic Policy in June 2019 and aims for 100% sustainability by using only recycled or plant-derived materials for all PET bottles used globally by 2030 and achieving zero use of virgin petroleum-based materials.