Pilsner Urquell Brewery ends production of beer in plastic bottles

The final two Pilsner brands to be produced in PET bottles, Kozel and Primus, were bottled in plastic for the last time in December.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 30.01.2022 14:09:00 (updated on 30.01.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

In line with recent efforts to become more eco-friendly, Czech beer giant Pilsner Urquell Brewery has announced that they have officially ended the production of beer in plastic PET bottles. The last plastic bottles produced by the company were filled in December, and are now being sold in stores.

While the company's flagship beer Pilsner Urquell, one of the most famous brands in the Czech Republic, was not sold in plastic bottles, many of the company's other beers were. These included Gambrinus, Kozel, and other popular brands.

Pilsner Urquell Brewery began production of beer in plastic bottles in 2011, and had an initial capacity of around 18,000 bottles per hour. By 2015, around seven percent of the brewery's output was produced in plastic bottles. 

In recent years, the company shifted away from plastic bottles, and that share fell to around 3-4 percent. By 2020, Pilsner Urquell stopped production of Gambrinus, Radegast, and Klasik in plastic bottles.

The final two brands to be produced in plastic bottles, Kozel and Primus, will no longer be bottled in plastic as of 2022.

"The last [plastic] bottle filled was a Primus on December 10, which finished the operation of the line," Pilsner Urquell spokesperson Zdeněk Kovář states in a press release. "During the line's lifespan, 3.8 million hectoliters of beer were produced in plastic. We are now dismantling the bottling line for PET bottles."

Primus beer in PET bottles. Photo: Pilsner Urquell Brewery
Primus beer in PET bottles. Photo: Pilsner Urquell Brewery

More than 70 percent of Pilsner Urquell's beer is now sold in returnable packaging such as glass bottles, according to Kovář.

While PET bottles are recyclable, they are not suitable for use in the production of new plastic beer bottles due to the need for a special inner membrane required to preserve the quality of beer.

Pilsner Urquell's decision to end the production of beer in plastic bottles follows a string of eco-friendly moves that includes the dropping plastic materials from labels used on beer bottles, the adoption of recycled paper products, and the removal of the iconic gold aluminum foil from the tops of bottles.

"The decision to end production of PET bottles is part of a long-term effort to minimize the impact of our business on the environment," says Pilsner Urquell Communications Director Pavlína Kalousová.

"By not bottling our beer in plastic packaging, we will save over 1,300 tons of plastic per year," she adds.

According to consumer data from Pilsner Urquell, about two-thirds of customers will switch from plastic to glass bottles, and the other third will switch to aluminum cans. Going forward, the company will focus on increasing the share of recycled aluminum in its cans.

"The advantage of aluminum is that it can be recycled virtually indefinitely, while the quality of the material remains the same," says Kalousová. "If an advance system is introduced, it will be possible to produce new cans from old ones almost entirely."

According to Pilsner Urquell, recycled aluminum cans have up to an eighty percent lower carbon footprint compared to newly-produced cans. Cans produced by Pilsner Urquell currently use about fifty percent of recycled aluminum, but the company is now negotiating with suppliers in hopes of increasing that number.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more