Evaluating the Sustainability Impact of Dairy Packaging

Fresh food products demand a high tech solution to protect and deliver the best quality to the customer, but which packaging solution is the most sustainable? Are biodegradable plastics, for example, the solution for today’s plastic problems? The fact that they are not the answer and why that is the case was one of the findings of the CSCP’s project with the Deutsche Milchkontor (DMK).

We can hardly imagine a life without packaging. Especially in food products, the packaging plays an important role in protecting the product and keeping it fresh for as long as possible.

However, consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned with the negative environmental effects of packaging and expect companies to take responsibility and apply sustainable and consumer-friendly solutions. But which packaging is the most sustainable? What environmental impacts do materials have along their supply chain and at their end-of-life?

Together with The Deutsche Milchkontor (DMK), the CSCP has been looking to answer these questions by analysing the market and different packaging concepts for dairy products. Next to market and regulatory trends, the analysis has been focused on understanding the different perspectives of relevant stakeholder groups such as consumers and the recycling industry. Based on the findings, the CSCP delivered a user-friendly evaluation tool on the sustainability impact of dairy packaging concepts.

The tool lets the user access and compare the relevant sustainability dimensions for different packaging concepts, including environmental impact, recyclability and circular economy aspects, renewable materials and food waste related factors. While also taking the transportation impacts into account, multi-way packaging concepts can be compared with one-way solutions. Today’s standard for sorting and recycling practices along with supply chain analyses and information from life-cycle-analysis-databases deliver reliable and important up-to-date results.

The tool highlights the different perspectives of stakeholders on sustainability dimensions, for example the consumer perspective on the use of renewable materials, and thus gives valuable information for decision makers, customers and retailers on packaging concepts.

DMK is now able to evaluate under which conditions a multi-way milk bottle is more sustainable than a one-way beverage carton. Through the tool, DMK’s packaging designers and decision makers have a solid basis for taking the environmental impacts and stakeholder perspectives into account during their decision making processes on packaging solutions. With the knowledge on how biodegradable plastics disturb established recycling activities, for example, the company now has reliable guidelines for actively tackling our world’s waste and plastic issues – switching to biodegradable plastic is not one of them.

For further questions, please contact Marius Mertens.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash