A prototype of the first-ever paper-based laundry detergent bottle has been made for Unilever’s OMO brand (also known as Persil, Skip and Breeze) and is supposed and is set to debut in Brazil by early 2022, with an ambition for roll-out in Europe and other countries soon after. Unilever says they are also piloting the same technology to create paper-based hair care bottles.

Sustainably sourced and recyclable

The bottle is made of sustainably sourced cellulosic pulp and designed to be recycled in the paper waste stream. It is sprayed inside with a proprietary coating that repels water, enabling the paper-based packaging material to hold liquid products like laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioners, which contain surfactants, fragrances and other active ingredients.

Creating recyclable, paper-based packaging without additional plastic layers is a huge challenge. According to Unilever, Pulpex’s patented packaging provides a promising solution to radically reduce the use of plastic.

To tackle plastic waste, we need to completely rethink how we design and package products. This requires a drastic change that can only be achieved through industry-wide collaboration," said Richard Slater, Unilever Chief R&D Officer.

As consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of products on the planet, Unilever relies on the Pulpex paper-based bottle technology to achieve their goal to halve their use of virgin plastic materials by 2025.

Several ongoing projects

A few paper-based packaging solutions are already on the market: the bottles made by Ecologic Brands for Seed Phytonutrients, or the tubes made by Albéa for La Roche Posay and Garnier. However, these solutions contain significant parts of plastics and are not always easy to recycle.

The solution developed by Pulpex therefore represents a significant step forward. Large-scale production of paper bottles is in preparation, with Finnish papermaker Stora Enso having started to supply Pulpex with the necessary materials. This should help Diageo to keep its commitment to launch a paper bottle for its Johnnie Walker brand this year, and Unilever to apply this technology to its detergents by 2022, before moving on to shampoos.

Recently, the Paboco consortium, which gathers companies such as BillerudKorsnäs, Alpla, Carlsberg, The Absolut Company (Pernod-Ricard), L’Oréal and Coca-Cola Europe, also presented its prototype of a paper bottle with a bio-based inner coating. A project to keep on the radar!