Milking carbon out of bottles

Posted on 23 Oct 2012

The plastic milk bottle is the most used item of packaging in the UK – with approximately four billion purchased every year.

It is the 30th anniversary of the four pint bottle in November, the last time a major change in the design of milk packaging took place.

The way in which milk is contained and delivered has gone from the milk pail to the glass bottle in the 1800s, before the invention of the plastic milk bottle in 1964 in response to society’s new preference for disposability.

Changes in consumer and environmental trends led to the introduction of the cardboard milk carton, and the one, two and four pint plastic bottle in 1982.

Since then, however, there has been very little development in milk packaging, but that’s all about to change.

Increasing pressure on retailers to cut waste, through initiatives such as the Courtauld Commitment, and on the whole milk supply chain to reduce its carbon footprint through the Dairy Roadmap, means that a new plastic bottle – right for the 21st century – is required.

Manufacturer of plastic milk bottles, Nampak, has come up with a plastic bottle that is lighter and more environmentally friendly.

“In the past, lightweighting has been achieved by simply using less material, but there is a limit to how thin the walls can be and for the bottle to still be fit-for-purpose,” says Ashwin Moorthy, head of engineering & innovation.

“Extensive research and testing was conducted, and innovative design changes were made with a particular focus on minimising stretching by bringing corners closer together.”

The result is a bottle that contains up to 25% less plastic than the standard design and uses up to 15% recycled material.

If Infini was widely adopted and replaced the current standard bottle, we would have a material reduction of approximately 16,000 tonnes per year and an impressive carbon saving of up to 34,000 tonnes per year.

At present, over one million Infini four-pint bottles are being supplied  each week into all Marks & Spencer stores in England and Wales, as well as Sainbury’s and Morrisons outlets in the South East.

But this success is just the beginning. As the dairy industry continues to build its environmental credentials whilst still giving consumers what they want, Infini will play an increasingly important role.