As farmers ourselves, we know the hardships that farmers face and we know they deserve a higher price per litre for the milk they produce. That’s why we’ve put our business under the microscope to identify ways we can save money and pay our farmers more!
One way we have identified to save money is to change over to a new type of recyclable PET packaging for our milk. At present we use a square 2 litre HDPE bottle. It is expensive and has to be blown and trucked up from Brisbane and isn’t easy to recycle.
We care about the environment as much as you do and have been looking at a whole range of alternatives. We’ve looked at waxed cardboard, a chalk based pouch, glass and even milk vending machines.
It’s a big change for all of us and we wanted to make sure we got the right fit. As a team we came up with a list of desirable traits that we knew you would want and would work for us too. These included:
- Recyclable in Australia or even re-washable – to keep them out of land fill.
- Light and user friendly
- Can be packed on our existing packaging equipment
- Food Safe so there are no quality issues
- Possibly compostable
- Look good and differentiate our products from the cheaper $1 per litre milks.
- Compact and the ability to make them on site at our farm;
- Affordable for us and you
Glass was our first choice. We know how passionately you feel about glass and at the beginning it felt like the right fit for us as well. However as we dug into our research we began to question ourselves.
Not only is glass expensive to buy it’s expensive to transport as well. It’s a heavy material, so lots of energy was going to be used to transport it. The cost of our milk would have had to have gone up to cover the cost of the glass as well.
We considered washing and reusing the glass bottles, however we are a long way away from most of our stockists. If we were to reuse the bottles then it would be very expensive to collect, wash and sterilise the bottles before reusing them. Not to mention the huge amounts of water, detergent and heat needed to clean the glass to a food safety standard. We worked it out and this process would consume more energy than it takes to make a plastic bottle.
I worried about the damage those bottles could endure during transportation and the chance of glass chipping and pieces falling unseen into our milk. Or the broken glass that could end up on the pack room floor!
Our second option was waxed cardboard containers. However this packaging consists of a plastic and cardboard composite that is neither recyclable nor compostable. While they are cheap to transport they need specialized packaging equipment which we don’t currently have. We drew a line through this option.
The chalk based plastic pouches were tempting. Each pouch is made from 70% chalk but the rest is plastic. This means they are unrecyclable because they are also a mixed composite. It would have also meant buying specialist packaging equipment. This option was ruled out too.
Vending machines were a great fit, and we travelled all the way to New Zealand to check them out. The draw backs were the cost ($60,000 for one vending machine per store) and our ability to get them accepted into stores. There were also safety issues to iron out to ensure the integrity of the product and hygiene on site. So as much as we still love this option it will need to wait until the costs of machinery are less prohibitive and we can ensure the integrity on the milk is maintained on site.
This one interested us a lot, but compostable packaging is not compatible with liquids as it begins to break down the packaging. Compostable packaging also makes a mess of other recycling processes if it’s put in the recycling bin and it needs a special environment to compost compostable plastics. We will watch this space as new innovations come to light.
Finally we revisited plastic to see if there was a more environmentally friendly type of plastic. Surprisingly we found a product that ticked virtually all of our boxes.
PET bottles are recyclable in Australia, are light, food safe, and they work on our existing packaging equipment. They have the ability to be recycled up to 6 times for reuse into bottles and so that is definitely better for the environment. There are also facilities opening in the region to handle this type of recycling.
Best of all they can be transported as a small tube and can be blown on site which means our milk will be truly farm to shelf with our bottles being made on site, This is especially beneficial in Far North Queensland where freight costs are huge.
The only challenge and is that it requires a change to our sizing as a 1.5 litre bottle is the biggest size our new blow moulder can blow. So we will be converting our 2L size to 1.5L and our 1 Litre size to 750ml. It will certainly mean some changes for us all, but we thought the benefits far outweigh any negatives.
The sustainability of our farmers in the community is extremely important to our food future. One of the important benefits of this change is that the savings we make on our packaging will enable us to pay our farmers more.
We truly want to be a sustainable dairy and we will continue to research more sustainable packaging methods as new technology becomes available. For us, PET bottles is the first step on the road to a sustainable packaging future.
So look forward to seeing a new 1.5 litre bottle of milk on your shelf soon.
Still have questions? Drop us an email, or give us a buzz, we’ll answer your questions as best we can!