In 2015, Finnish dairy cooperative Valio was the first company in the world to start using plant-based cartons.
It announced that by the end of 2018, all components of its gable top milk, sour milk, cream and yogurt cartons sold in Finland would be fully plant-based.
The company says this has now been achieved, and it now intends to expand the use of plant-based packaging in other products.
In Finland, Valio sells about 250m gable top milk, sour milk, cream and yogurt cartons every year and, according to the company, by switching to plant-based materials for its packaging, CO2 emissions, compared to traditional materials, are reduced by 3,140 tonnes every year.
The cartons themselves are now exclusively made of wood-fiber cardboard. The renewable plastic used to make the caps and to line the carton is made from plant ethanol, a side flow of the sugarcane industry. There needs to be a thin layer of plastic to make sure the liquid stays fresh in the carton.
Valio said it is aiming towards carbon-neutral milk. In the spring of 2019, Valio and the Baltic Sea Action Group will begin to train dairy farms in carbon farming: the farms will be taught new ways to bind carbon to the soil and to share existing good farming practices. The energy in cow manure can also be used to replace fossil fuels in the future.
Reduced total environmental effect.
Valio is now studying ways to make plant-based juice cartons. Juice cartons use a thin layer of special plastic that protects the vitamin C in the juice.
Valio’s packaging development manager, Tanja Virtanen-Leppä, said, “Development of the juice carton plastic layer has gone well, and we will be able to produce nearly 100% plant-based juice cartons as soon as this year. Our goal is to be smart about reducing our total environmental effect: the right kinds of packages protect the products and prevent food waste, and plant-based packaging reduces the products’ carbon footprint. We are also increasing our use of recycled raw material, and encourage consumers to recycle our packaging correctly.”
Valio’s packaging development is guided strongly by the fact that people want packages to be fully plant-based, she added.
Valio Sweden has already changed its yogurt cartons to plant-based packages, with the next step being a move to plant-based packaging for its other milk products.