UK-based Yeo Valley Organic claims that in the twelve months leading up to January 2009, 109 tonnes of ‘unnecessary’ packaging materials have been removed from its yoghurt products as part of a focus on cutting down on plastic and cardboard use. However, a spokesperson for the group suggests that the future of its ongoing green commitments may lie beyond pack reductions, particularly in development of compostable alternatives.
The wider UK dairy industry has moved over the last few years to step up its sustainable commitments through schemes like the Milk Roadmap devised in part by trade association Dairy UK. Although the roadmap scheme is focused specifically on finding potential greener solutions to liquid milk, global concerns over the environmental impacts of dairy are seeing similar commitments being adapted across various segments.
Back in 2008, Yeo Valley says it set itself a target of making 95 per cent of all packaging supplied by the company recyclable. Currently, the company says that 53 per cent of its packaging is derived from recycled material and 88 per cent of materials being used are fully recyclable.
Ben Cull, marketing director at Yeo Valley Organic, claims that in terms of working towards obtaining its wider sustainability goals over the next three years, the company has already down gauged its plastic pots and cardboard sleeves as much as possible.
Cull told DairyReporter.com that the company was therefore testing and looking at use of compostable materials in its operations to focus and offset potential concerns relating to encouraging recycling of its products.
“Our big pots are made from polypropylene and it is a shame that there are not enough council recycling centres across the UK which can handle these,” he states. “Our biggest challenge is to now find some suitable compostable materials.”
In the UK market as a whole, the issue of using recycled goods is becoming increasingly important with Dairy UK’s milk roadmap aiming for all plastic milk bottles by 2020 to be derived from 50 per cent reused materials. By next year this target is set at 10 per cent, with further goal of 30 per cent by 2015.
Although these targets are set specifically for liquid milk products, Dairy UK suggests that similar targets are being adopted across the sector, including potential developments for yoghurt pots.
“We have set up an environmental benchmarking tool that collects key information from members,” says a spokesperson for the trade association. “This allows them to benchmark themselves against similar sites and make improvements, while we can assess the industry as a whole’s performance on things like waste, energy use, packaging, water use and recycling.”