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What’s behind the new attached bottle caps? Inside the EU directive causing drink spills everywhere

The new caps are mandatory in the EU by July.
The new caps are mandatory in the EU by July. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Ian Smith
Published on Updated
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A new requirement for a tethered design for plastic caps on drinks bottles officially comes into force in the EU on Wednesday, but what’s behind the move?

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Cracking open a cold coke on a hot day is one of life’s great pleasures, but from now on it will be a different experience.

That’s because plastic bottles in Europe are changing as a result of new EU rules.

You may have already come across the new plastic caps that are tethered to the bottle.

If not, you will do soon as they are mandatory starting from this Wednesday across the EU.

Here’s why it’s happening and what people think about the new design.

What is the new plastic bottle cap design?

The new design is quite straightforward. Instead of the caps we are used to that screw fully off, there are extra strips of plastic connecting the cap to the bottle.

Coca-Cola has been one of the first to embrace the change as they have rolled the design out across Europe in the last year or so.

“This small change has the potential to have a big impact, ensuring that consumers recycle our bottles, and no cap gets left behind,” Coca-Cola Ireland manager Agnese Filippi said ahead of the introduction.

What do consumers think about the new bottle caps?

Coca-Cola and other major drinks companies were not always so open to changing their bottle design.

When the rules requiring the change were first announced by the EU in 2018, they hit back claiming it would lead to an increase in plastic and come at a cost to manufacturers.

Now that it’s been rolling out across the continent some consumers are also upset with the new design.

They have taken to social media to complain about the cap hitting them in the face as they drink and making drinks more difficult to pour.

Why is the cap attached to my plastic bottle?

It is mandatory for all EU states to have phased out loose caps by 3 July for plastic drinks bottles up to three litres. It’s part of an EU directive announced in 2018 that aims to reduce single-use plastic waste.

Loose caps have been banned as part of a larger plan to tackle plastic waste in Europe.

The bloc says that they are one of the most littered single-use plastic products on beaches.

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At the moment large amounts are going unrecycled and ending up in our oceans. Researchers estimate that the production and incineration of plastic pumped more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2019.

The new plastic caps are just one in a series of measures being pursued by the EU.

Packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables, mini hotel toiletries and fast food in restaurants will soon be banned under legislation agreed in March. Although it’s an uphill battle with major lobbying efforts against such moves and recent nerves around the European Green Deal.

The hope is that by having the cap attached people are less likely to throw them away as to do so you’d have to dump the whole bottle along with it.

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EU member states are free to set their own design requirements as long as “the caps and lids remain attached to the containers during the products’ intended use stage.” So the design we’re currently seeing on drinks like Coke is not the only one possible, although it will be the most common given their market dominance. Other big drinks companies have already adopted Coke’s design.

Will the UK have new bottle caps even after Brexit?

While it’s an EU policy to get rid of them, it has had knock on effects in other countries. Companies mass produce bottles and caps so it is complicated to make different styles for different countries. As a result major drinks companies are also rolling out the new caps in non-EU countries, like the UK, even though they are not legally obliged to.

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