External labels or shrink sleeves on bottles provide crucial product information but can result in significant challenges during the recycling process, even when brands claim they are fully recyclable, as Coca-Cola does. High levels of colours, inks, and adhesives make the material unsuitable to be recycled back into labels, and there is presently limited infrastructure to recycle labels in Europe. During the bottle recycling process, labels are separated from the PET flakes using the float-and-sink method and are subsequently usually discarded. Label-less bottles simplify the recycling process by this skipping this step.
The naked bottles use 2% less plastic than their clothed counterparts, as measured by weight, according to Coca-Cola. This equates to a saving of 2.8 kg of CO2 equivalent for every 1,000 label-less bottles produced.
“Labels contain valuable information for consumers, but with the help of technology we can now trial other ways to share this information while reducing the amount of packaging we use,” said Dusan Stojankic, VP franchise operations, GB&I at Coca‑Cola Great Britain. “Going label-less might seem like a small step, but it is one of several ways we are exploring making recycling easier, minimising waste, and minimising the impact of our packaging on the environment.”
Coca-Cola has trialled label-less bottles in other markets, including Korea, Japan, and Switzerland. In 2020, South Korea introduced legislation prohibiting external labels on bottled water from January 2026. Its government estimated that label-less plastic water bottles could save the country 24.6 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.
Label-less bottles can also make business sense in countries with a plastic tax. In the UK, for example, manufacturers can save in tax payments by removing labels, which typically do not contain at least 30% recycled content.
On the other hand, label-less bottles could prove challenging with Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), which scan bottles’ labels to determine whether they are eligible for a refund. The UK is planning to introduce such a scheme in October 2025, which would require product innovations in label-less bottles.