How are we going to make the world’s first fully biodegradable wood fibre beer bottle and what difference does it make?

As part of Carlsberg's sustainability campaign 'Cheers to green ideas', we are here to offer as much insight and transparency as possible to how sustainability initiatives work at Carlsberg.

The campaign offers a prize of up to $20,000 for the best idea, that helps Carlsberg be more sustainable.

We all live in a world with finite resources, so we have to choose the most sustainable solutions and be smart about how we can recycle.

We are

Simon Boas Sustainability Director in Carlsberg Group

  • Making sustainable business good business, and thereby increase the likelihood that companies embrace sustainable innovations that contribute to smarter, better and more sustainable products being offered to consumers across the world.

Solvej Karlshøj Christiansen Project Director in Sustainia

  • Working together with a global community of sustainability geeks to identify and communicate sustainable solutions, from around the world. It’s pretty awesome.

Kristian Søllner Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at EcoXpac

  • I am a Mechanical Engineer with specialization in energy systems. I’m currently focusing on R&D management and knowledge collection, and I am overly excited to be a part of the development of a sustainable future.

Ask us anything about big corporate sustainable workflows, what our experiences are and the Cheers To Green Ideas campaign.

We are excited and gathered at Carlsberg HQ in Copenhagen, Denmark and we will answer whatever questions you might have for the following for two hours. Ask away!

Proof

EDIT: Thank you so much for your curious, fun and educated questions! In the two hours we been at it, we haven't had a dull moment. This probably won't be the last AMA we do and we might pop in over the next few days to check for new questions.

And remember to check out our current campaign: Cheers To Green Ideas campaign.

Comments: 142 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

no_more_free_names29 karma

If the bottle is biodegradable, wouldn't that limit the shelf life of the beer substantially? How long does it take to degrade?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas49 karma

Simon

It will be produced in such a way that it will not degrade until well after the content has been consumed...

Or so we hope, as it will probably be a commercial disaster if it degrades on the shelf...!

Gh0st1y15 karma

So its not immediately biodegradable, but it will eventually decompose? Doesn't that still pose a shorter term trash and space issue? How long does it take to decay fully?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas17 karma

Simon

First of all it should always be collected to avoid trash (or branded waste) as I call it...

We will make the bottle so that it will offer the beer a long enough shelf life to be sold before degradation. After that, for industrial composting, there must not be identifiable pieces of the bottle after 6 months.

So in short, after the beer is consumed, it must not take more than 6 months for the bottle to degrade under the right circumstances...

Gh0st1y18 karma

Alright. Do the right conditions include just ending up in the dump? How about a rural estate's trashpit? How long would it take if it were floating in the Pacific Ocean trash circle?

I'm just interested, not trying to criticize. I like the idea of a "wood" beer bottle.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas27 karma

Kristian

I am glad you are interested and generally courious. The fibre solution is my passion and I am working hard on developing it every day.

There are a lot of open ended questions in you post. Generally, we ourselves, are asking a big question to the society we have created. Generally, as I understand it, the legislation does not take into account, that some people might not hand in bottles or whatever they are carrying. Therefore, the standards for compostability are only directed at industrial compostability. We want to take this behaviour into account, but we will also strongly point out, that it is the plan and goal for the bottles to be collected centrally.

Landfills are a very irritating and challenging way of getting rid of waste. In a landfill you strive to keep it dry to prevent ground water contamination and foul smelling. However, keeping it dry also prevents biological degradation, and if you got to biodegrade and compost you would not be able to use the soil for anything because it would be contaminated by a lot of non-degradable trash.

The question about the pacific or the other waste systems is a bit open. We have been focusing on meeting the requirements for collection since it will be the main plan for the bottles after use. But it will be a goal for the fibre products to be able to compost under most conditions found in Nature.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas13 karma

Kristian

Just to comment again and clarify. It is a paradox to create a biodegradable packaging that has a long shelf life. Beacuse you want it to biodegrade as soon as the contents has been emptied out. That is an issue we are very aware of finding a solution for.

anggm3 karma

any estimation about the shelf life of the beer inside? what about maximum and minimum temperatures of exposure?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas6 karma

Kristian

If you ask about the temperatures regarding the beer in the bottle, it will not change compared to what exists today. If you ask about the packaging itself I think it will come down to the coating actually. Wood fibres does not change much in behaviour in changing temperatures. They become softer at temperature cosing in on 100-200 degrees C, and will spontaneously combust around 220 degrees C. It should be able to withstand a trip to the freezer without issues.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Simon

On the beer shelf life, it will not be different from beer in PET bottles.. Kristian will reply regarding temperatures...

Qiousei14 karma

I'm curious about something. Let's say you end up using that technology for all your bottles, any estimation on how much wood will be needed? Where will it come from?

Looks like something great, some thinking out if the box.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas13 karma

Simon

Great question: The bottle is still in development, so we dont know exactly how much wood will be used yet, however we know that we will use primarily fast-growing wood-fiber from responsible sources, i.e. the sources will be PEFC or FSC certified...

If, in the long term, the demand for wood fibers were to grow so much that we could no longer produce wood fiber bottles from responsibly managed sources, then we would stop using them.

We are also aiming at using locally sourced fibers to reduce both costs and environmental impact...

CarlsbergGreenIdeas7 karma

Kristian

The products made from fibres will have a mass somewhat similar to the known plastic products. When you produce pulp the final pulp product will account for approximately 30-50% of the wood used for the pulp. The rest can be used for sustainable burning and so on. There will be used a lot of trees and of course, the world can only produce that many trees. We cannot support constant growth anyway, but trees regrow if grown responsibly.

wankerbot12 karma

I notice that, among the 65 comments listed here, not one mentions "oxygen", the bane of beer shelf-life. Has anyone done any studies on the oxygen ingress into packages like this? Putting aside the fact that very few brewers know how to do shelf life studies properly, have there been ANY shelf-life studies on the quality of beer in this type of package?

Also, how will this package stand up to hours in an icy wet cooler?

Also, how is the crown attached? Metal and glass can stand up to the pressures that a crowner can apply, but I'd imagine that wood wouldn't hold up so well...

Speaking of crowns... do you see a lot of leakers after crown application? I'd imagine the evenness of the bottle finishes aren't as consistent as glass/metal, so keeping the crown properly sealed may be a challenge...

CarlsbergGreenIdeas10 karma

Simon

Thanks for your great and detailed questions! You are 'hitting the nail right on the head' (as we would say in Denmark) in terms of the main challenges we have in the development.

1) Shelf-life: I think we are quite good at shelf life studies, but can always get better, probably. If you have any input here, please let us know.

2) We dont have studies on shelf life yet, as the bottle is still being developed.

3) We expect to apply coating on both the inside and outside to ensure that it stays nice in the wet, icy fridge..

4) We had a great workshop last month where more than 60 crown cork ideas were developed for the bottle, so we will for sure find the best possible solution together with our partners in the Carlsberg Circular Community, ecoXpac and the Technical University of Denmark.

5) Yes, it will be a challenge, but we will make it!

pqowie3139 karma

What is the advantage of a biodegradable bottle over just reusing them like they do in many places?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas16 karma

Simon

The refillable glass bottles that are used in many markets is definitely a highly sustainable solution, as they are refilled up to 30 times in some markets (such as in Denmark)...

We are not saying that the Green Fiber Bottle will replace all packaging types, however it will offer us an opportunity to reach different consumers that might prefer the wood-fiber packaging and also reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, as wood is a bio-based material which in its essence is renewable...

We want the bottle to be recyclable, so that it can be collected and used for something else, however, we are not done with the development yet...

Do you prefer glass?

pqowie31310 karma

I definitely like glass better than every other currently available bottle, but I've never used a wood fiber bottle, so I don't really know if it would be better or worse to hold and drink out of.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas14 karma

Simon

When its ready you will find out! However, if I tell you that it will keep your beer cold for longer, would that be a plus?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas5 karma

Kristian

There are several things to keep in mind when asking that question and I find it very interesting.

First of all plastics, glass and metals are amazing materials. They are relatively easy to prduce and shape, and a lot of research have gone into optimizing these materials. Surely these 3 giants are very suitable for many situations.

However these three have their own limitations as wood fibres have limitations.

Petroplastics can't be recycled forever, and you are therefore still reliant on fossil fuels.

Glass production and mouldig requires high amounts of energy but are on the other hand rather easy to recycle as I understand it.

Metals are easy to mould, easy to recycle but are rather expensive and requires quite a lot of energy.

Wood fibres are rather hard to mould and the technology suffers from the lack of development during the last many decades. The technology uses a lot of water which can be recycled though. However, they are regrowable, the production of wood fibre relies only on resources that can be regrown, and the product can be recycled or upcycled to many products along the way intil it ends up in the place where it came from: Nature.

I'm not sure there is one single answer to what is the right material to rely on, but one big upside of the fibre solution is, that it will not be piling up over centuries, if, by mistake, it is not collected and reused in the right way.

sethferguson8 karma

How do you keep the wood from absorbing some of the beer like a cask? Would it affect the flavor like a cask does?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas10 karma

Kristian

The surface of the fibre structure will be coated. There exists some solutions already for coating fibre substrates, but it is a part of the development of the bottle to develop a coating suited for beer that will leave no offtaste and will make the bottle able to keep the beer "healthy" and carbonated in the whole lifetime of the beer.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas6 karma

Simon

From Carlsberg's stand point, we would only make a wood-flavoured beer if the consumers wanted it, and then we would not want the taste to leak from the packaging - we would rather brew the beer with a wood-flavour.

So DONT WORRY, the beer in the Green Fiber Bottle will not taste like wood!!!!

CunnyCuckingFunt8 karma

I read on the link about that :

Secondly, if it should happen, that the bottles are not collected after use, the fact that it is bio-degradable will act as a built in fail-safe mechanism ensuring, that the bottle decomposes to soil.”

What is the protocol for the bottles being collected? Would the new material breakdown affect how the bottle has to be recycled and therefore make it harder to recycle it in the first place? If so, would this not have an adverse effect with less recycling occurring?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas6 karma

Simon

The bottle will become a part of the recycling scheme in the market it is launched in, so for example in Denmark, the bottle would be part of the Deposit System and would therefore be collected through that system.

After collection the material will then be either recycled into something else, or perhaps even used as fertilizer for growing barley...

We are using the Cradle-to-Cradle design framework to develop the bottle, and in this framework you can optimise materials for either the technological cycle (like aluminium or glass) or the biological cycle (such as biodegradable fibers)... The important thing is that materials can reenter either cycle, without any loss of value. Therefore if the wood fiber reenters the biological cycle without any harmful materials being emitted, this would also be a sustainable solution as the nutrients in the fiber would become nutrients for plants or trees...

Regardless the bottle should be collected so that it does not look ugly in nature while degrading...

FRE3STYL3R6 karma

  • Have you evaluated the CO2 emissions per glass bottle/wood carbon bottle/aluminium can? Which one wins?

  • Where is the wood being sourced from?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Simon

We use an intant LCA tool to evaluate the environmental impact of all our innovations, including the Green Fiber Bottle.

However, as the bottle is not done yet, we have not been able to make a final assessment. However, rest assured that it is a key priority for us, and we have a PHD working only on assessing and optimising the environmental impact of the bottle.

The wood will preferaly be sourced from local sources where the bottle is to be sold... This reduces the environmental impact and the price...

abbarach5 karma

I don't have much of a question, but I wanted to tell you a little story. Carlsberg was my grandfather's favorite beer, since he immigrated from Denmark to Canada in the '60s. My parents moved to the United States before I was born, and I only got to visit my grandparents for a week every year or two. About 5 years ago we lost my grandfather to old age. Much of his family came in from Denmark after the funeral, and we spent hours at the hotel drinking Carlsberg and telling stories. I learned so many things I never knew about my grandfather, from his family's participation in the resistance during WWII to mundane stories about his life as a civil engineer, and projects he's worked on.

It's hard to find Carlsberg where I live now (central Kentucky), but every time I find one and crack it open I can't help but think about my grandfather, and his amazing life. It's formed a permanent link in my memory, and while I'm sad to have lost him, I'm glad to have a chance to learn so much more about him. Thanks for being that trigger for those memories.

As for a question, since auto moderator says I need one, what can I do to get Carlsberg into my local stores? I've tried asking shop keepers, but no luck...

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Simon

Thanks a lot for your great story we are happy to be a memory trigger!

Unfortunately we are not big in the US so I dont know exactly where we are sold, however, please send a mail to [email protected] and my colleagues from communications will find out where we sell Carlsberg in Kentucky!

CarlsbergGreenIdeas1 karma

Solvej

btw, that was a lovely trip down memory lane. Thanks for sharing! It put a smile on our faces. Love from Denmark to Kentucky!

NewForOlly5 karma

What's the best way to keep a can of Carlsberg chilled?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas5 karma

Simon

I recommend the fridge ;-)

However, if no fridge is available do the following: 1) Find a big bowl 2) Fill it with ice cubes and water 3) Poor some cheap salt over the ice 4) Stir the can in the water for 30 seconds

Voila: Ice cold Carlsberg

imthatguy255 karma

Do you guys have a slogan?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas5 karma

Simon on behalf of all...

We have HEAPS of slogans:

  • Carlsberg: Probably the best beer in the world
  • EcoXpac: Innovate or evaporate
  • Sustainia: Building the world of tomorrow

We can keep going if you want additional ones on e.g. some of our brands, but think you might be 'sloganned out' already...

samwise09125 karma

On a more personal level, what are your favorite films?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas5 karma

Kristian

I think I'm going to go with the Shawshank Redemption among many close combatants. I really like the mood and style of the film, and how it all comes down to a medieval battle for the prison!

CarlsbergGreenIdeas5 karma

Solvej

Great question.. hmm.. depends what mood I'm in I think. I guess I won't win on the coolness factor, but the chick flick 'Sliding doors'. I think I've seen it like 120..on a VHS tape. I get a kick out of Gwyneth Paltrow's british accent. What's your favorite?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Simon

I would say Memento, as I really like not knowing where the plot is going, or what the ending will be like when I watch movies... Memento definitely fullfills those criteria

jaug13374 karma

What does it take to instantly change all current bottles and cans to a sustainable solution?

Would it be financially stable or expensive beyond comprehension?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas6 karma

Simon

First of all you would have to define sustainable!

As already mentioned in the Previous question some packaging types are also highly sustainable, however, a more direct reply would be that it would not be possible for us to scale up the production of the Green Fiber Bottle instantly... Perhaps Kristian can provide more insights in terms of production?

jaug13374 karma

Sustainable for mother nature to consume.

What I am questioning is, what is required to achieve a very high sustainable bottle in the end? Hypothetically ofc ;-)

CarlsbergGreenIdeas8 karma

Kristian

If the requirement for a product to be 100% sustainable is that it does not impact nature neither positively nor negatively during its use the fibre bottle would be a rather okay solution.

Changing all the current bottles and cans to the fibre solution is simply not doable right now, since the technology is not finished. It is a work in progress and requires more work. When finished, or at least implementable, the upscaling will take quite a while. To my knowledge, the world produces approximately 1,2 trillion plastic bottles a year and a LOT of machines will be needed to carry this production.

The development of the technology is rather expensive, but not compared to the amount of bottles produced each year. Also a goal of the project is to create a solution that is price competitive compared to existing plastic and glass solutions, since it would make implementation easier.

Making a high sustainablity packaging would require for the material to be able to be re-introduced into nature if no longer needed in use.

anggm4 karma

Hi! wood fiber would be used just for bottles or might they work for larger containers that require longer shelf life such as kegs? You are working with one-way kegs made in PET, right? Are they working OK? Can they be considered more sustainable than traditional stainless steel kegs?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Simon

We currently dont have any plans to make the DraughtMaster kegs from wood fiber.

The PET kegs are working well and we are rolling it out all over Europe. Especially in Italy its a big success and the Life Cycle Assessment from Italy shows significant environmental benefits from using the PET system in Italy.

We are right now conducting LCA studies to compare steel kegs and PET kegs in other European markets, but the results are not in yet...

anggm1 karma

doesn´t it generate loads of waste? isn´t it much more expensive?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Simon

We use the LCA analyses to quantify the environmental impact and enable comparisons of different types of packaging on a level playing field.

Therfore with e.g. the PET kegs, we can compare which end-of-life has the lower environmental impact. As such you are right in the sense that using a one-way PET keg generates more immediate waste when disposed of. However, if this is recycled, or used optimally in a local recycling system, it is not really waste, but value...

In terms of price, we look at the total costs, and in this sense, the PET keg is competitive to the steel keg.

rolling_bars3 karma

As a wood fiber bottle would be lighter then a glass bottle, this would drastically reduce costs of shipping and save money for carlsberg right? If you can show the cost savings do you think this element alone will encourage other companys to adopt the measure?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Simon

When calculating the total costs, the lower weight will definitely be a positive factor. As we sell more Green Fiber Bottles it will become cheaper and cheaper due to the production scale. So I think that it is more a question of scaling the Green Fiber Bottle as fast as possible in order to reduce the costs, and thereby make it more financially interesting for others as well.

However, as the bottle is developed in partnership between Carlsberg, ecoXpac, Technical University of Denmark and other partners, we will launch it first, and then later others can follow...

rolling_bars2 karma

do you think that with Carlsberg being a green company and actually making a contribution to combat climate change, when this is made and mass produced they would allow other companys to use it for free, due to the reduction in emmisions from lighter bottles and cost savings in the long run?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Kristian

Even though Carsberg has been the ones to roll out this campaign first, the technology is owned by EcoXpac. We are a small R&D company based in Denmark. With a risk of sounding saintlike and "better than others" we are small enough to be able to work for the greater good. We have an interest in making this a big thing both from our own economic perspective and from an environmental perspective.

totesnotkevin3 karma

What's the weight difference between glass bottles and wood fibre bottles?

And what will the beer cases look like? Carrying a 24 pack to the 6th floor sucks dick at the moment.

CarlsbergGreenIdeas7 karma

Solvej

Kristian just told me that they are significantly lighter, so looks like your trip to the 6th floor is about to get easier.

92Grapes2 karma

Just thought I would say I have always enjoyed Carlsberg adverts (notable this one)

The question I have is when you drink the same drink poured from a can and one poured from a bottle you can taste which is which as one will have a "tinny" taste to it. What does drinking from the new bottle taste like?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas6 karma

Kristian

The human taste buds are rather fine tuned, and that amazing part of our body is what makes you able to taste the difference. The taste buds can identify and detect very small changes to a given substance. I think part of it is going on in the mind, but I am not for a second doubting that some people would be able to pinpoint glass, plastic and can poured beer ie. in a blind taste.

Paper, which is made from wood fibres, have a quite easily detectable odour and you would be able to taste it from the bottom of your pizza ie.. Part of the goal of the project on creating the bottle is to make the drinking experience as pleasant as possible. During the development of the bottle, it will undergo what is called organoleptic studies which is a measurement of what can't really be measured. You present the product to a panel of ordinary people and make them interact with the product, scoring it in each category. Off-taste is a factor here. In making the drinking experience as god as possible, off-taste will have to be minimized, and preferably eliminated since it is the contents we want to taste! :)

92Grapes3 karma

That's really interesting thankyou.

Another question I have is how well will the bottle keep temperature? I would imagine that wood would get warmer sooner? (Accidental tongue twister!)

CarlsbergGreenIdeas4 karma

Simon

The bottle will take a little while longer to cool down, however, once cold, it will stay cold longer, as the wood-fiber will function as insulation. Your hand will also transfer less heat directly to the beer, as the wood does not conduct the heat as fast as aluminium or glass...

Madnessrains2 karma

Do you think this technology can be applied elsewhere?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Simon

I think you will find a reply to this in Kristians reply to this question

CooldownReduction2 karma

When you buy a beer in a bottle it taste significantly better than out of a can, do you feel a wood based solution would be better or worse tasting than a can?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas2 karma

Simon

Check out Kristians reply in another question...

goodbtc2 karma

Have you considered funding the research of a fusion reactor?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Solvej

Wouldn’t want a fusion reactor in my backyard, would you? With that said, we are seeing more and more solutions on moving to a more decentralized energy grid where energy consumers are becoming energy producers with more than enough solar, wind, wave and thermal energy to go around. Fusion is a good idea, but not yet a solution.

pqowie3135 karma

Yes. Yes, I'd want a fusion reactor in my backyard. How many times have you been in the middle of powering up your death ray, only to realise the neighborhood's electric grid couldn't support it?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas4 karma

Solvej

Good point.. :-)

Johnny_Bob2 karma

What can you do to make beer in a non-transparent bottle feel like a luxery product?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Solvej

Actually, it's been popular over quite some time now that products are packaged in 'natural looking' packaging in order to send a signal that it is more luxurious/high end - with the green fiber bottle though, in stead of just looking like it, it actually is natural.

ftumpsch0 karma

As a non-drinker, what are you guys doing for me?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Simon

We are aiming at selling beer in the Green Fiber Bottle when its ready for the market, however, we are also looking at non-alcoholic alternatives for the bottle, so if you're not drinking alcohol, there is definitely still a possibility that you will be able to buy a product from Carlsberg that you, like in the Green Fiber Bottle!

CarlsbergGreenIdeas3 karma

Kristian

When we have a solution for making the bottles we will also be able to create other products from fibres. By developing this technology, we will be able to impact many different groups of products.

Bairy_Halls-4 karma

Any chance you could brew a beer that doesn't taste like an elderly yak has pissed in it?

CarlsbergGreenIdeas7 karma

Solvej

Not too sure about the elderly yak. I'm not in on the secret ingredients of Carlsberg. However, if you have a good idea for how to make the beer more sustainable, you should submit your idea to www.CheersToGreenIdeas.com