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The race to develop the reusable can

Monday 7 October 2019

Thirty-two percent of the 78m tons of plastic packaging produced annually does not make it to landfill or a recycling centre and is left potentially to flow into the oceans. Despite an increase in recycling, plastic beverage bottles contribute significantly to this global problem.

According to a study conducted by The Coca-Cola Company, most plastic bottles are single-use bottles, and only seven percent are turned into new bottles. The carbon footprint of a 500mL plastic bottle is 240g, whereas a 330mL can is 170g. If a can is recycled, its footprint is reduced by up to sixty percent, whereas recycling a plastic bottle reduces its carbon footprint by less than twenty percent.

Re-usable cans satisfy consumer demand and differentiate products

Given consumer demand for environmentally-friendly packaging, and the relatively small environmental impact of cans over plastic bottles, why are beverages still packaged in plastic? It appears that currently, the functionality of the bottle – the ability to close and re-open the container – is still a significant driver of consumer choice.

The reusable can may offer the best of both. Many manufacturers are working to invent a commercially viable, reuseable can that offers the functionality of a bottle plus the relative eco-friendliness of a can. A fundamental challenge is that of course, these cans require resealable lids. There have been recent advancements in this area with some commercially viable resealable cans coming to market. These cans have a relock system that allows the cans with their lids to be resealed to drink later, or even refilled to be used multiple times.

Protecting innovations and investment in re-usable cans from competitors and counterfeiters

As the product development process can produce multiple iterations of cans, several inventions can materialise through development of a single solution. A resealable can lid comprises a wealth of protectable intellectual property.

Depending on the beverage, a resealable lid must withstand different conditions. Many popular soft drinks are highly acidic, requiring a corrosion-resistant lid. Carbonated drinks create high pressure inside the can, which necessitates a mechanism to secure the lid appropriately. In both scenarios, the resulting products are likely patentable, and thus protectable from use by competitors.

The design of a reusable can is also a driver of consumer choice, and can likewise be protected from replication, where the design is distinctive.

For further information about patents and protecting intellectual property in the food and beverage industry, please click here.

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