HomeIndustry InsightsEU Mandates Tethered Caps for Plastic Bottles: What’s Your Take?

EU Mandates Tethered Caps for Plastic Bottles: What’s Your Take?

Starting on July 3, 2024, a new regulation under the EU Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive mandates that all plastic caps must be attached to their bottles.

From this date, all beverage containers placed on the European market must have the cap tethered to the container. The new tethering system applies to all beverage containers (bottles, cartons and pouches) up to three litres in size.

This move, part of a broader effort to reduce environmental impact, targets the significant litter problem caused by plastic caps, which constitute approximately 15% of packaging waste. These caps often end up as harmful debris in natural habitats, posing serious risks to wildlife.

Also, the directive addresses a critical flaw in the current recycling process. Loose caps, being small and lightweight, frequently evade recycling machinery, ultimately becoming non-recycled waste. By ensuring caps remain tethered to their containers, the regulation aims to significantly increase the collection and recycling rates of these items, thereby reducing environmental pollution.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) has converted all of its British manufacturing sites to tethered caps production, after its Glaceau Smartwater facility in Morpeth, Northumberland, was the last to make the switch.

To better align with the essence of the regulation, traditional plastic caps need to undergo innovative redesign to meet the requirements of tethered caps. Previously, some companies had already developed and implemented PET cap production systems. Producing caps with PET resin imposes higher demands on injection molding and the barrier properties of PET, but this design makes the recycling of PET bottles more integrated, thereby reducing the difficulty of recycling.

However, the initiative has not been without controversy. Many consumers have expressed frustration with the practical implications of the new design. The fixed caps can make it more challenging to drink directly from the bottle, affecting user experience. 

In essence, the overarching goal of the regulation is to foster a more sustainable and environmentally friendly use of plastic packaging. Nevertheless, sustainable packaging design should also endeavor to consider consumer convenience through innovative design and improvements during use to the greatest extent possible.

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