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Plastics in dairy packaging: a case for sustainability

by Greiner Packaging
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© Greiner Packaging

In today’s post, we will look at the advantages of sustainable plastic dairy packaging and how it can benefit consumers and the companies from which they buy. As you know, today’s savvy global consumers are increasingly seeking healthier food in smarter packaging that protects the environment and improves the quality of their food. While much packaging lags behind, certain companies are leading the way in the race for packaging innovation that meets these goals.

In general, sustainable packaging often means packaging that can be composted, recycled or reused. It might also be produced, transported and recycled using renewable energy; made with renewable or recycled materials; made in ways that optimize use of energy; and is safe for people and the environment throughout its life cycle.

Packaging can influence a customer’s first impression of a product, in addition to accounting for a significant part of its environmental and social impact. According to Sustainable Brands magazine, one of the largest industries for packaging is food and beverage.

Options continue to increase for sustainable packaging that incorporates recyclable materials while still protecting food. These progressive packaging options are also providing new frontiers in user-friendliness, brand messaging, food waste reduction and shelf life extension without ultra-high-temperature processing and the addition of preservatives.

The study, “Impact of Plastics Packaging on Life Cycle Energy Consumption & Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States and Canada,” has determined common plastic packaging helps reduce package weight, energy use and GHG emissions in the U.S. compared to packaging alternatives made with other materials. Innovations in packaging continue to reduce the amount of plastic needed for the job.

Simply put, plastics help make packaging more efficient, thereby, conserving resources. For example, two pounds of plastic can deliver roughly eight gallons of a beverage, whereas three pounds of aluminum, eight pounds of steel or 27 pounds of glass would be needed to deliver the same amount.

And while packaging is a vital strategy for brand owners adapting to changing customer preferences and the rising popularity of their products, there are challenges that go along with the process.

For instance, according to a report by The Guardian, size and material are two of the biggest factors for recyclability: in general, the smaller a package and the greater its mix of materials, the less recyclable it is. While consumers and businesses may think that sleek, recyclable containers are sustainable; experts note that single-serving foods, including yogurt and coffee cups, are especially problematic. Their small size and—in the case of yogurt cups, difficult-to-recycle plastic—tend to make them a tough sell for recyclers.

Most common single-serve foods, including coffee cups, violate the material and size rule. Yogurt, in particular, is a problem—the majority of yogurt companies use packaging that is difficult to recycle.

However, manufacturers continue to look for ways to overcome these challenges and provide consumers with sustainable, eco-friendly packaging that protects food throughout the supply chain, and plastic packaging is at the forefront of those efforts. Look closely the next time you are at your local supermarket and you will see packaging innovation taking place every day.

If you’d like to learn more about the advantages and challenges of sustainable dairy packaging, we’d like to offer you a complimentary copy of the eBook we’ve been referring to, Greiner Packaging’s The benefits of sustainable dairy packaging.

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