New milk bottle design may cut down on packaging

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk, Carbon dioxide

One of the most ubiquitous items in every British kitchen, a
plastic bottle of milk, is set for a re-design in a new project
aimed at significantly cutting down on the amount of packaging
material required.

Bottle producer Nampak is working with leading milk supplier Dairy Crest on a pilot project to take the handle off one- and two-pint plastic milk bottles. The handle-free bottle would be about 10 per cent lighter, says the UK organisation backing the project, WRAP. That would mean cost savings as well as a reduction in carbon emissions and less waste. And if the design is taken up by the whole dairy industry in the UK, it could cut the use of high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic by 5,000 tonnes a year. Peter Skelton from WRAP's retail team said: "Plastic milk bottles are probably the most common plastic item found in household waste and manufacturers and brand owners have taken the current handled designs as far as they can go in terms of lightweighting.​ The vital next step is perfecting a handle-free design which works for the consumer." This project is the first phase in a much larger project with the dairy industry, he said. Food and beverage producers are currently under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions as governments call on industry to help them become more environmentally friendly. In response to targets for cutting CO2 output, the UK trade body, the Food and Drink Federation, pledged in October last year that its members would cut packing materials by 340,000 tonnes by 2010, from the 4.6m tonnes used in 2005, a reduction of 13 per cent. Its members also promised to achieve a 20 per cent absolute reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010 compared to 1990 and pledged that no food and packaging waste would go to landfill from 2015. Dairy Crest processes around 1 billion litres of fresh milk each year. It alone would save 1,250 tonnes of HDPE plastic if it could change its bottles to the new design. The key issue for designers is to remove the handles without weakening the container. Richard Pryor, innovations controller at Dairy Crest, said: "We know consumers need a handle on the large four pint milk bottles but this project is to understand just how much of a necessity handles are on the smaller one and two pint bottles.""We don't have handles on bottles of squash, juice or carbonates however the handle provides significant structural support for the bottles, so the project will focus on determining the considerable barriers of moving to a lighter bottle, and explore consumer acceptance, ergonomic grips, ease of opening, as well as production, filling and transport trials." ​ Results of the project are expected to be released this summer. If consumers accept the smaller bottle, the project could see the new design become a new "best in class"​ bottle for the dairy industry.

Related topics: Fresh Milk

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