Making cartons without plastic caps

Courtesy of Elopak

Many brands are transitioning to more sustainable packaging as consumers increasingly make environmentally conscious decisions regarding their purchases, notes Elopak.

Beverage cartons already have strong environmental credentials when compared with plastic bottles. A 2018 Life Cycle Assessment showed that in the case of UHT milk, cartons result in 70.7 per cent less CO2 emissions and in the case of fresh milk 83.6 per cent less CO2 emissions in comparison to disposable PET bottles, according to a 2018 study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) in Germany.

One of the latest innovations to gain traction in packaging is the Natural Brown Board carton from Elopak. These are a rustic take on the company’s iconic Pure-Pak cartons, made with one less layer to allow the natural colour of the wood fibres to shine through. Having launched in 2017, today approximately 20 per cent of the Pure-Pak milk cartons Elopak sells in Western Europe are produced with natural brown board.

Elopak’s Pure-Pak cartons made with natural brown board make even further advances on this inherent sustainability. They are renewable, recyclable and have a lower carbon footprint than conventional cartons, owing to reduced wood consumption and the elimination of the bleaching process. Their rustic, natural look effectively communicates this commitment to sustainability and instantly stands out on the shelves, according to the company.

“Our customers are very responsive to consumers’ desire to reduce their environmental impact. A lot of them offer organic, green or otherwise sustainable products and they want a packaging solution that reflects this ethos and signals their commitment to the environment,” Elopak’s chief marketing officer (CMO) Patrick Verhelst explains.

“The Natural Brown Board has set a new standard for ecologic milk and plant-based drinks,” Verhelst continues.

No more caps

Some brands are going further and removing the plastic caps on their cartons. In 2020 Sweden’s second-largest dairy Skånemejerier was among those to make the change.

Skånemejerier decided to remove the caps on all its Hjordnära organic milk one liter cartons, and then let sales figures and consumer reactions determine whether the change should be permanent.

The dairy launched its organic milk in new Pure-Pak cartons with an easy opening funnel feature to replace the plastic closure.

“There are differences of opinion about the screw cap. Some consumers prefer the convenience of closure while others prefer to avoid plastic. So, we decided to put it to the test and remove the plastic caps and ask the consumers their opinions,” says Cecilia Lindwall, marketing manager at Skånemejerier.

Consumers who contacted the dairy via social media and its customer service department overwhelmingly preferred the new closure, with 79 per cent expressing a preference for packaging without the plastic screw top.

“This result is exactly what we were hoping for. It is gratifying to see that consumers prioritise sustainability over convenience. Removing the plastic cap reduces the climate impact of packaging, and it also makes it easier for consumers to recycle” explains Lindwall.

“Our vision is to be Sweden’s most sustainable dairy and to minimise the amount of material in our packaging,” she adds.

Plastic initiative

Last year Skånemejerier signed the Plastic Initiative. The initiative aligns with the European Commission’s plastics strategy, which states that by 2030 all plastic packaging on the EU market can be reused or recycled. The signatories pledge to meet the target within two years. Skånemejerier is approaching this goal as its packaging is already 96 per cent recyclable.

ECO organic milk range is the highest quality milk from Skånemejerier, and the launch of the new cartons with natural brown board and no plastic cap brings more sustainability to its most natural product.

The carton is certified carbon neutral, and the brown board uses fewer materials for a lighter package with lower carbon emissions. Skånemejerier plans to launch more products in Pure-Pak cartons with no plastic cap.

Since its launch, Elopak’s Natural Brown Board has served as a platform for further sustainability-focused innovations, including the Pure-Pak Imagine launched in 2020. The carton is a modern version of the company’s original Pure-Pak carton, containing 46 per cent less plastic and designed with a new easy open feature. It has no plastic screw cap and is 100 per cent forest-based made with natural brown board, making it Elopak’s most environmentally friendly carton to date.

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