Recyclable milk cartons, made entirely from plant-based plastics, are about to hit Finnish supermarket shelves before the end of January. The maker, Tetra Pak, proudly refers to the cartons as the “world’s first fully renewable carton package“.
Finally, finally! The wait for a 100% recyclable milk carton is over, thanks to one of the world’s giants in production of packaging, Tetra Pak, and their Brazilian partner, Braskem. Together with the packaging giant, the Brazilian producers of ethanol-based fuel and bio-polymers (bio-plastics), assembled the new milk carton by making the body and the plastic cap out of both sugar cane and wood fiber.
The first product that will be packed in the new recyclable milk cartons is the Finnish lactose-free skimmed milk drink Eila by the local dairy producer Valio. The new packaging will be marketed across the country for the coming two months, after which consumers will be asked for feedback. The outcome of the survey will determine whether the company will begin using the bio-packaging for all their products.
Here it is important to note that bio-plastics are not biodegradable and therefore they have to be recycled just like all other plastics. However, the difference is that plant-based milk cartons are not polluting like their petroleum-made siblings. Although as it is right now, there is quite a huge environmental cost associated with farming sugar cane, the production of this type of bio-plastics sets the foundation for a whole new area of development, engineering and research.
The guys at Tetra Pak are convinced that with the appropriate equipment and technologies in place, they will be able to develop next generation bio-plastics that are made of readily available, easy to farm and produce, plants and raw materials. They have already set their eyes on various agricultural, forestry and algae waste products, as well as different household bio waste.
OK, yes, it is not the true green revolution in recylable packaging, that we are all hoping for, but at least it is a step away from fossil fuels. Now that the start has been given with recyclable milk cartons, it is just a matter of time before the next great innovation in the field emerges. We just need to be a bit more patient, and encourage the process every step of the way. And meanwhile recycle bio-plastics, just as we would do with the petroleum-based ones.
Image (c) Tetra Pak