Tethered tops

The truth about tethered tops

Have you noticed that your plastic lid is now attached to your favourite plastic drinks bottle? Well, rest assured – it’s not faulty or flawed, but instead a design evolution to enhance recycling and reduce littering. Janet Dalzell, food regulatory expert at Ashbury, lifts the lid on what exactly is going on and what you need to know. 

Back in 2018, the European Commission proposed tethered lids for single-use plastic drinks bottles up to 3L. Despite some initial resistance, it’s set to go ahead from 3rd July next year. As the new regulation was proposed after Brexit, the UK doesn’t have to participate – for the moment, at least. But that doesn’t mean we’re exempt from seeing these on the shelves. 

With the majority of brands selling in multiple markets around the globe, for many it makes both logistical and financial sense to align this new innovative design across the board. And in preparation for the deadline, it’s clear that some businesses have been trialling this here in the UK.

The main objective of this latest legislation is to make further advancements towards global sustainability targets, making it easier to collect and recycle the bottle and lid together as a single unit. Plus, it’s designed to reduce the number of lids being littered, as well as be more practical and hygienic. 

One of the brands proactively introducing the tethered lids into the UK market is innocent drinks. Their Technical Packaging Team Leader, Jon Waters, explains their motivations behind adding them to the UK market: “The move to attached caps is an important step in making recycling easier for everyone. The new design ensures that the cap stays connected to the bottle after opening, so that it is less likely to be littered and making it easier to recycle both parts together. Whilst the UK is exempt from the European legislation, innocent will be introducing attached caps to our bottles in all markets later this year as part of our commitment to making it easier for our drinkers to recycle the entire packaging.”

Many consumers have taken to social media platforms, sharing mixed reviews. One Reddit user exclaimed: “I thought it was a manufacturing defect that the cap never came off”, and on TikTok individuals are admitting to forgetting it’s intended to stay put and trying to rip it off. 

Let’s not forget the initial confusion in the mid-to-late 1970s when retained ring pulls on cans were introduced – majority of consumers were unaware that they were intended to stay on and instead were actively trying to detach them. Fast forward 50-odd years and few of us think twice about them when opening a beverage. 

It’s not yet a regulation in the UK market (and might not ever be), but it’s vital that consumers completely understand what’s going on. With some tweaking based on consumer feedback and communicating the what, why, and when to the mass market, the tethered plastic lids may also soon become the new normal too.

Ashbury is a leading-edge regulatory consultancy dedicated to making global food compliance easy. Working closely with major brands and retailers, Ashbury’s experts help clients launch new products and expand into new global markets, confident that their products and labelling comply. It’s not just about supporting busy teams; it’s about protecting brands and consumers through accurate and compliant product information. For more information, please call 0845 459 5019, email [email protected], or visit www.ashbury.global

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