“Our goal is maximum circularity of packaging, that means using them repeatedly or making them from used packaging, i.e. from recycled material. And that is not possible with PET beer bottles. The main obstacle is the internal protective membrane necessary to maintain the quality of the beer. The material from the beer steins can thus be recycled, but they cannot be made into beer bottles again. That’s why we definitively retreated from them,” said communications director Pavlína Kalousová.
The Pilsen PET line, the only one in the Prazdroj group, which had been operating since 2011 and cost approximately 150 million crowns at the time, had a capacity of 18,000 bottles per hour.
“It has been shut down for more than seven months, and we finished the last bottle of primus on December 10. Now it will be dismantled and will travel abroad. However, we do not know its further use. In its place, an automatic sorting plant for glass bottles will be built next year, which we will have as the first brewery in the Czech Republic,” said Petr Kofroň, manager of the Pilsen brewery.
According to him, the line worked without problems as needed, mostly in two shifts on working days. “The volume of beer in PET bottles was a maximum of three percent of the exhibition, so it was not a huge portion,” he said. Primus and Kozel turned the most on the line. “We save over 1,300 tons of plastic annually,” Kalousová said.
According to the brewery’s data, consumers also prefer this step. Roughly two-thirds of them have switched from PET bottles to glass returnable packaging, and a third buy cans instead of bottles. Prazdroj now fills more than 70 percent of its beers in returnable packaging, i.e. glass bottles and barrels, significantly increasing the proportion of recycled cans.
“All of them now contain almost 50 percent recycled aluminum on average. For Pilsner Urquell cans, we have increased the proportion in the packaging to 75 percentt, which is the highest certified level available on the Czech market,” said the communications director. According to her, the brewery saves over 1,500 tons of new aluminum annually. Aluminum can be recycled virtually indefinitely while the quality remains the same.
Last year, Plzeňský Prazdroj, together with other beverage companies, founded the Advancement Initiative, which opened a dialogue on the introduction of a comprehensive advance system for cans and PET bottles in the Czech Republic.
“The inspiration was the backup system in Slovakia, where we also operate, and which we helped launch starting this January. “Twelve European countries have already taken the backup route, which is able to collect more than 90 percent of the cans put on the market,” Kalousová added. According to her, more than ten other countries are preparing a backup system.
Last year, the largest brewery in the Czech Republic sold 11.1 million hectoliters of beer domestically and internationally, 0.3 percent less year-on-year. Last year, he started building a new, fully automated warehouse in Pilsen for 780 million CZK, which will open at the end of this year. Prazdroj invested CZK 1.4 billion last year.