Eco targets for dairy industry

The UK dairy industry’s announcement that it is to set environmental targets to include sourcing more than half of all its packaging from recycled sources has been welcomed by designers.

Jon Shaw, a freelance structural packaging designer, says that the move could unleash a wave of innovative structural designs for milk bottles that address lightweighting and strength considerations.

‘On the more technical side, we could see a move towards interesting explorations of shape and use of form as a way to get strength into the bottles,’ he says.

From an aesthetic point of view, Shaw says that a higher use of recycled plastic content, such as the high-density polyethylene used in milk bottles, will mean an increasingly opaque look for dairy packaging.

‘The higher the recycled content, the less translucency, so this might mean more use of patterns and colours,’ he muses.

Given that most dairy packaging is made from plastics, for which recycling facilities in the UK are not as widely available as those for glass and paper, resources will need to be ramped up, according to Stephen Aldridge, partner at structural and environmental packaging design group Am Associates.

‘It is going to be increasingly important to have local, or at least national, reprocessing systems in place or there will simply not be enough recycled material available without bringing it in from abroad,’ he says.
‘In general, there should be a far more consistent approach to recycling nationwide. For instance, few councils collect polypropylene (bottle caps) or vac-formings. Perhaps there should be limitations on the variety of materials so that they are easier to collect and recycle. This can only come through legislation, not industry initiatives,’ Aldridge adds.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working on the initiative with industry body Dairy Co, Waste & Resources Action Programme and supermarkets Tesco, Sainbury’s and Asda.

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