It’s been over a year since Isle of Man Creamery introduced the first plant-based milk cartons in the British Isles and the reduction in single use plastics and carbon at the company has been sizable.
The purpose of changing the way that our milk was packaged was to improve our environmental impact and find a sustainable and renewable way of getting our grass fed, Manx milk to our consumers.
Plant-based cartons are made primarily of wood-based board which is sourced from The Forest Stewardship Council certified forests. This means that the materials used are both renewable and sustainable and this is independently audited. The plastic elements of the cartons are made from sugar cane. This sugar cane is sourced from Brazil and is grown on degraded or pre-farmed pasture ensuring that there is no encroachment on natural habitats.
The production of the cartons is carbon negative, meaning that for each one litre carton that is manufactured, 21g of carbon is taken out of the environment. This is due to the carbon update that takes place from the growing of the materials used (this also takes into account any carbon that is emitted during the production process).
We were hopeful that Manx consumers would see the benefits of purchasing milk packed into these more environmentally friendly cartons and switch from the single use plastic bottles which are also available. During the time since the new cartons were introduced, we have seen a massive shift in buying habits. In August 2018 70% of consumers were buying Isle of Man Creamery milk in single use plastic bottles. In August 2019 almost 80% are now buying their milk in plant-based cartons.
A direct comparison of January – June 2018 and January – June 2019 shows a saving of over 25 tonnes of single use plastic, that’s almost one tonne every week!
In addition to this, due to the cartons being transported to the Island flat-packed there are also 30 fewer lorry loads of packaging coming across to the Island from the UK every year. This also helps us to reduce the amount of carbon we are emitting, and we hope to continue to reduce the number of pre-formed single use plastic bottles we are shipping to the Island.
The introduction of plant-based cartons was a massive project for the Creamery which involved input from many stakeholders both internal and external as well as investment in machinery, research and testing. We are really pleased with the way consumers have adopted the new cartons and the saving of a tonne a week in single use plastic is testament to the difference that can be made by making environmentally minded business decisions and implementing change.
The plant-based cartons are also fully recyclable, and Isle of Man Creamery has initiated a specialist recycling scheme to ensure that the cartons are properly disposed of. In conjunction with Mann Waste Recycling, dedicated milk carton recycling bins have been placed at the four Civic Amenity Sites around the Island where people can take their plant-based cartons to be fully recycled.
The cartons are sent to a dedicated recycling plant in Halifax where they are turned into industrial grade tubing, the type that is used inside rolls of carpet. During the first three months of the recycling trial we have collected three tonnes of empty cartons for recycling and we hope that more and more people will start to take their milk cartons for recycling in the future.
We are also putting measures in place to start a doorstep collection of empty cartons for our doorstep delivery customers. Anybody who has milk delivered by the Creamery will be able to leave their cartons on their doorstep in a suitable container and they will be collected on a dedicated day by our delivery drivers. They will then be brought back to the Creamery where they will be crushed and bailed and sent to be fully recycled.
It’s our aim to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle their milk containers. There are already facilities in place for recycling our plastic bottles and we felt that we needed to provide a way for customers to recycle their cartons and close the loop on the plant-based packaging. We’re really pleased with how many people have already taken their cartons to the Civic Amenity Sites and hope to see many more in the future.
The hope is that eventually, all of our packaging will be more environmentally friendly and will be fully recyclable with measures in place for our consumers to do so. We are currently scoping out compostable cheese packaging and have recently introduced a fully recyclable cream pot and lid solution.
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