The innovation is a collaboration between Austria’s school milk producers and three Upper Austrian companies: PET-MAN, Greiner Packaging, and Starlinger Viscotec.
The innovation helped the companies pick up a Trigos – the Austrian award for companies that do business responsibly.
The project, which promotes closed-loop recycling, is achieving good results, according to the companies. Austria’s school milk producers supply schools and kindergartens directly with dairy products in r-PET cups. The children consume the drinks during recess, then the used cups are gathered and returned for recycling to the school milk producers.
Once collected, these containers are picked up, washed, and shredded. The resulting flakes are then cleaned and processed. At Greiner Packaging, the extruded plastic sheet is ultimately used to thermoform new r-PET cups, which are then refilled by the farmers and delivered to schools and kindergartens.
This closed loop releases more than 30% less CO2 than reusable glass bottles. Recycling the cups also requires less energy than processing reusable glassware, for instance, and produces less waste. The cups can be recycled easily because they are unprinted and made from 100% monomaterial.
The entire school milk loop takes place within Upper Austria. The cows graze in local pastures, and the cups are filled with milk at the dairy farms before being delivered to the schools.
“Needless to say, we are delighted that our commitment to school milk in Upper Austria was recognized with a Trigos. The award shows that we are on the right track. For us, sustainability is not just a catchphrase – it is a duty we take very seriously. Thanks to the project, children can be taught to treat nature sustainably from a young age. After all, it makes a real difference whether we throw away packaging or whether we are able to keep recycling it. If we can help raise awareness of that, then we have done a good job,” said Manfred Stanek, CEO of Greiner Packaging.
Greiner said the recycling loop for r-PET makes it a material with a promising future. Currently, recycled PET is the only post-consumer secondary plastic approved for food applications in the EU. The white r-PET packaging can be reprocessed into food packaging, making it a suitable recyclable packaging solution for dairy products.