Sustainable strides: Mengniu overcomes recyclability challenges of dairy packaging

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Mengniu's new mono-material yoghurt packaging is made using Dow’s proprietary resins. ©Mengniu
Mengniu's new mono-material yoghurt packaging is made using Dow’s proprietary resins. ©Mengniu

Related tags China mengniu Dairy Packaging Dow

China diary giant Mengniu says it has overcome some of the long-standing recyclability challenges in the category with a new all-polyethylene (PE) yoghurt packaging concept.

According to Daniel Lin, Sustainability Director of Mengniu, traditional dairy packaging faces significant challenges when it comes to being recyclable and its impact on the environment.

“Many dairy products are using multi-layered packaging made of paper, plastic, or aluminium foil, making it complex and difficult to recycle,” ​he told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

The new yoghurt pouch is created using Dow’s proprietary INNATE TF-BOPE resins, which enable the replacement of PET or BOPA in laminated film to achieve mono-material packaging.

“The INNATE TF-BOPE resins deliver excellent toughness and printing performance, while still being aesthetically pleasing and functionally protective. Mono-material packaging, when recycled via appropriate mechanical recycling technologies, can be reused as high-quality PCR resins with increased value and versatility across different applications,” ​said Jayne Wong, Senior Group Marketing Director at Dow.

Environmental-friendly manufacturing is an important pillar of Mengniu’s sustainability strategy, and adopting low-carbon packaging in all product lines is a significant part of it.

The firm has set a goal to achieve 100% technically recyclable packaging by 2025.

“Although sustainability is a relatively new concept for Chinese consumers, it has been gaining popularity due to the implementation of improvements in national standards, the support of corporations, and increasing eco-consciousness among the people. As a result, green consumption has become a rising trend in China.

“We are always searching for ways to make dairy packaging more recyclable. Many of our products have obtained the ‘Double Easy’ certification recognised by TÜV Rheinland. The newly launched yogurt packaging empowered by Dow’s solution is another remarkable achievement,” ​Lin elaborated.  

On the same note, Wong shared that sustainable development is no longer a priority just for international brands, and that Chinese companies are increasingly taking action to promote the widespread use of sustainable packaging.

“Mengniu serves as a prime example of this commitment to sustainability. From the consumer perspective, it calls for brand owners to close the loop on packaging waste, and for the industry at large to design for recyclability.”

Sustainability strategies

In 2021, Mengniu introduced a sustainable development strategy called GREEN, which focuses on five pillars: sustainable corporate governance, prosperity for all in the dairy industry, environmentally friendly production, responsible industry ecosystems, and nutritionally excellent products.

The firm follows The Consumer Goods Forum’s Golden Design Rules and has developed various “green products” that use sustainable packaging, including Future Star Milk and Youyi C drinks.

“As a large dairy company operating in primary, secondary, and tertiary industries, we are committed to sustainable practices and aspire to champion green consumption.

“Our industrial chain is extensive, ranging from pasture management and product processing to packaging and transportation. Each chain link presents sustainability challenges and opportunities for a green transformation,” ​said Lin.

At the same time, Mengniu seeks to have more engagement with consumers, and to partner with “innovation experts” like Dow to apply advanced technologies in production processes.

“Interacting with customers is vital for developing eco-conscious products and educating them about responsible consumption. Enhancing consumer eco-consciousness will significantly boost sustainable development in the dairy industry.

“Furthermore, government policies and industry standards must work hand in hand. Besides collaborating on product R&D, brand owners and manufacturers must also step up, and advocate for the creation of relevant policies and standards. This will provide guidance for sustainable practices, allowing them to flourish and progress,” ​Lin added.

Similarly, Dow believes that the packaging value chain should continue to collaborate with related government departments and organisations, such as Alliance to End Plastic Waste, to develop and commercialise more recyclable packaging.

The company has also set new targets around advancing a circular economy and climate protection by focusing on reducing carbon emissions and eliminating plastic waste.

Through its Pack Studios, where businesses in the materials science, machinery, and converting industries as well as brand owners can communicate and collaborate closely, Dow aims to facilitate the acceleration of sustainable packaging development.

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