Tackling carbon emissions in the dairy industry

It’s no secret that the dairy industry relies heavily on energy sources to produce consumer dairy goods. It’s also no big reveal that plenty is made of the fact the industry produces a lot of carbon and methane emissions, causing its own strain on the planet.

Almost 80% of the world consumes dairy products, causing high demand — and a problem where action needs to be taken to reduce environmental impact. Here, rural energy operator Flogas provides an overview on what this booming industry is doing to make a change and tackle carbon emissions…

The Dairy Roadmap

Western food is one of the main reasons the industry has such a high demand. But with this demand comes the need to reduce carbon emissions too. Add to this, the legally binding commitment that the UK will reach net zero emissions by 2050, and means that reducing emissions becomes a race against time.

Promising signs are already filtering through, though. Companies such as Arla Foods, Müller, and Yeo Valley, are heading towards a greener future. In fact, the British dairy sector is ‘world-leading’ for sustainability, according to Dairy UK. This has been helped by the Dairy Roadmap, a sustainability scheme launched in 2008.

The Dairy Roadmap is always innovating and is now ensuring that dairy energy is becoming as clean as possible as a fuel source.

Saving water

Despite the reliance on water for processes, consumption is down nearly 24 per cent. They have also introduced a range of water-saving measures to decrease its environmental impact.

These measures include:

  • Water mapping projects
  • Rainwater harvesting to reverse osmosis
  • Reduced freshwater abstraction
  • Optimised Cleaning in Place (CIP) systems.

Recycling drive

Since 2008, dairy farmers have been increasing their efforts to recycle more. 65 per cent of waste was recovered or recycled in the same year, and the remaining 35 per cent was sent to landfill. Now, the dairy industry recycles or reuses 94 per cent of its waste, with the ambition to reach 100 per cent soon.

Climate change

When it comes to climate change, there’s been a 20 per cent increase in primary energy efficiency (kWh/tonne). Widespread use of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants has also been eliminated.

The next major milestone is for emissions to be reduced even further, with the adoption of cleaner fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), necessary to reduce emissions by 30 per cent.

Plastic packaging

One major concern continues to be plastic waste. However, in the world of dairy, major changes have already been implemented. In fact, this industry uses some of the most recycled and reused packaging of all consumer products.

Reduced food waste

Reducing food waste isn’t a plain sailing task for any industry, never mind one so engrossed in food production. In 2016, most of the potential food waste (produce not meant for consumers) was used in a more environmentally friendly fashion. Just over 60 per cent was recovered for animal feed and redistribution. And a further 23 per cent was used for anaerobic digestion or biogas production.


Biodiversity is one way for improvements to be made. In Dairy UK’s 2018 biodiversity strategy, the organisation called for big changes to be made to improve their biodiversity status. Processors have started to engage in projects within their local communities to help reintroduce native species in opportune spaces around their processing plants.

As the industry continues to work on reducing its carbon footprint, it appears that a green future is on the horizon. By following targets set out in the Dairy Roadmap, the industry has proven that it can revolutionise its processes and, with future targets in place, we can expect more improvements to soon follow.


[Statistics source: The UK Dairy Roadmap, 10th Anniversary Report]

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