The first mainstream fresh dairy brand to switch from plastic milk bottles to cartons goes on sale in UK supermarkets on Wednesday, in the latest drive to reduce the use of single-use plastics.
With millions of plastic milk bottles disposed of daily in the UK, a2 Milk is switching to 100% recyclable paper-based cartons that use 80% less plastic than bottles and carry the Forest Stewardship Council label. That means they are made with pulp from FSC-certified forests and/or recycled sources.
The UK uses 38.5m plastic bottles every day, of which 15m are not recycled, and they are now standard packaging for mass-produced cows’ milk sold in UK supermarkets.
Cartons are already used for long life or ambient milk and drinks, and for chilled drinks including non-dairy (soy, rice, oat and almond) milk substitutes, but this is the first such move into UK supermarket chiller sections by a fresh milk brand.
In the UK, plastic waste has become a highly emotive national issue, with TV programmes such as Blue Planet II exposing its impact on the oceans and warning of the dangers of a global plastic binge.
This backlash has led to more people signing up to doorstep deliveries for milk in traditional glass bottles, although its share of the sector across the country remains steady at about 3%, according to trade body Dairy UK.
Research from Kantar earlier in the year highlighted consumer worries about plastic in the UK – a quarter (25%) expressed “extreme concern” about plastic and 21% said industry should go even further and opt for entirely plastic-free packaging.
The a2 Milk brand is growing in the UK (it has a 10% market share in Australia and is big in the US) and has become popular for people who suffer an adverse reaction to regular milk. It comes from selected cows on farms in Shropshire, Cheshire and north Wales that produce milk containing only the A2 beta casein protein type, and is free from the A1 protein type present in conventional milk, which some people believe is harmful.
“It is hugely impressive that a relatively small brand in the dairy industry should be the first to make the switch from plastic bottles to paper-based cartons,” said Rosie Teasdale from the Forest Stewardship Council UK. “If all milk in plastic bottles used in the UK were changed to cartons we could significantly cut plastic use.”
The move is the result of a new partnership with Crediton Dairy, a supplier of flavoured chilled and long life milks and creams to the UK retail trade.
“The a2 Milk Company has always been a pioneer and the introduction of our new sustainable cartons in the UK market is another first,” said Simon Hennessy, general manager, international development of the a2 Milk Company.
In the US, the inventor of the milk carton took out his patent in 1915 and the storage method has largely replaced glass bottles.
Source: The Guardian