If you can't imagine drinks coming in paper bottles, you might be in for a surprise.

Diageo (DEO 0.91%), maker of the Johnnie Walker labels and Smirnoff Vodka, as well as other brands, has announced that it will pilot a sustainable, paper-only bottle for a limited-edition run of Johnnie Walker.

Beverage packaging that cares about the environment

Diageo said it is introducing the first bottle for spirits that is entirely plastic-free and made from sustainably sourced wood. The bottle will launch in 2021.

Johnnie Walker bottle and glasses.

Image source: Diageo.

The company is working in partnership with Pilot Lite, a venture management firm that helps companies launch new technology and other ventures. The two have created Pulpex Limited, which is dedicated to developing technology that supports sustainable packaging. 

The group is building a consortium of non-competing companies that include Unilever and PepsiCo and expects other leading companies to join in as well.

"We're proud to have created this world first," said Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer at Diageo. "We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be truly ground-breaking."

A novel concept

The bottle is made from wood-based pulp and is designed to be completely recyclable. The company is enthusiastic about the possibilities for the material and the range of goods it could affect.

Diageo said this project meets the "Consumption and Production" goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This isn't the first time a beverage company has tried to market its products with sustainable packaging. A British company, Frugalpac, launched a paper-based wine bottle last month, and Danish beer maker Carlsberg has been working on a prototype as well.