Bagged-milk highlighting green dairy development

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

A new milk packaging initiative by a leading UK retailer designed
to cut package waste is just one of many green container
innovations being carried out by dairy processors, according to the
industry.

A spokesperson for the industry-based association Dairy UK said that many processors were now working with consumers and retailers to reassess how they are packaging and transporting their products. The claims come after Sainsbury's last week announced a trial scheme in 35 of its stores to sell milk in recyclable bags, before a potential wider roll out across 500 shops at the end of the year. The packaging, which was designed in conjunction with UK-processor Dairy Crest, has been devised in a bid to cut milk-packaging waste by 75 per cent, amidst growing concerns over the environmental impacts of dairy food production. Milk bags ​ Consumers insert the two-pint recyclable plastic bag into a re-usable plastic jug, which can be bought at Sainsbury's stores, and the milk is then ready to be poured. Once emptied, the manufacturer claims that the bag can then be recycled with other plastics at a consumer's home, or deposited in special bins at its stores. Distribution focus ​ A spokesperson for Dairy UK told DairyReporter.com that the bag plan was itself an extension of similar initiatives undertaken by milk producers and processors to reduce packaging waste during distribution. "Major dairies save tens of thousands of tonnes of tertiary packaging, such as cardboard and plastic film every year by delivering to over 80 per cent of its customers in a bespoke fleet of over 600,000 steel roll containers,"​ he said. "Not only do these eradicate tertiary packaging, Dairy UK operates a scheme which assists dairies to manage, and where necessary recover, roll containers to help maintain this sophisticated closed loop distribution system." ​ The use of these roll containers is expected to be expanded, the association said. Aside from transportation, Dairy UK claimed that there are various examples of environmentally-focussed consumer packaging innovation from across the industry. He noted the example of UK-based processor Milk Link, which has recently kicked off an initiative to increased recyclable material use in cheese packaging as well as reducing the weight of materials used to store its products. Rival manufacturer Dairy Crest has also launched a new zipper pack for cheese packaging designed to improve product shelf life and cut down on food wastage. Milk Roadmap ​ As part of a more industry-wide focus, Dairy UK claims that it is also working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP​) to find additional means to cut food waste including increasing product longetivity and portion sizes. The association says the commitment is part of its recently announced milk roadmap scheme, designed to reduce the environmental impact of producing and transporting liquid milk. "The Roadmap contains targets for closed loop recycling of plastic milk bottles as well as dairies sending near zero waste to landfill,"​ the spokesperson stated. "Other projects include lightweighting bottles to reduce the amount of plastic used in making each one and offering consumers the option of fresh milk in bags, which generates far less waste than a bottle." ​ The roadmap, which the association claims has garnered interest from a number of its international counterparts, is a response to recent global criticisms of the environmental impact of dairy production from sourcing milk and other raw ingredients at farm level up to energy use during processing. Choice-editing​ Sustain, which claims to be an alliance for sustainable food production, has been attempting to discourage dairy and meat consumption due to contributions of livestock farming to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The group has therefore proposed a choice-edit system of menus and food offerings in a bid to cut the carbon footprint of what we eat. Citing recent United Nations figures, the alliance claims that animal farming has led to the creation of more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, lorries and planes in the world combined. The group claimed that this was related to a number of factors including the large amounts of animal feed required for production of a small amount of meat or milk. According to Sustain, this feed demand requires nitrogen fertilizers to be used in their production, which leads to emissions of the nitrous oxide greenhouse gas. Concerns over converting forest areas into dairy farm pasture have also been expressed by environmental groups such as Greenpeace, which in April attempted to reforest part of a New Zealand government-owned dairy farm. The organisation said that the action was an attempt to raise awareness of its concerns over intensive dairy farming in the regions of the Central North Island and Canterbury. "Large-scale deforestation and intensification of dairy farming is being pursued with the bottom line, notNew Zealand's larger social, economic and environmental welfare in mind,"​ Greenpeace stated. Farmers groups have hit out at these claims suggesting they are unsubstantiated.

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