A great deed for the environment from Valio: fully plant-based gable top cartons

Valio is taking a major step towards even more environment smart package solutions as the company is significantly increasing the use of fully plant-based gable top cartons. By the end of 2018, all of Valio's milk, buttermilk, yoghurt and cream gable tops for sale in Finland will be made from plant-based materials. The carbon footprint of a plant-based carton is less than 50% compared to a conventional gable top.

“In our sustainability programme, we are committed to offering consumers the world's most sustainable dairy packaging solutions.  Already in 2015, Valio became the first company in the world to introduce milk cartons made from fully plant-based, renewable material for the company's organic Valio Luomu™ milk products after a pilot with Valio Eila® lactose free semi-skimmed milk drink. Now we are stepping up the phased adoption of fully plant-based gable tops and start switching over to more these environment smart packages”, says Tanja Virtanen-Leppä, Head of Packaging at Valio.

The carbon footprint of a plant-based gable top carton is less than 50% compared to conventional package

Switching over to plant-based gable-top cartons is a significant good deed for the environment, especially from climate point of view. Changing from fossil crude oil-based to plant-based plastics improves environmental performance. The carbon footprint of a plant-based gable top with a plant-based screw cap is less than 50% compared to a conventional gable top with a screw cap.*

“The amount of products now switching over to plant-based cartons is significant. We are talking about approximately 250 million gable tops a year. This way, we cut packaging related CO2 emissions by 3,140 tonnes a year. This amount of CO2 emissions is equivalent to driving 412 times around the world with an average car”, Tanja Virtanen-Leppä explains.

In a fully plant-based gable top, all components are made of from plant-based materials. Carton is made of paperboard covered with thin watertight plastic layers. Screw cap closure is made of the same plastic used on paperboard outer layers. Paperboard is made of renewable wood fibre and plant-based plastic is made of bioethanol, by-product from the sugar-cane industry. Plants bind carbon dioxide as they grow. This makes plant-based packaging a good choice from climate impact point of view compared to crude oil-based packaging.

Plant-based cartons are recycled like conventional gable tops

The properties of a fully plant-based gable top carton are unchanged. Therefore, cartons are recycled the same way as conventional packages. The gable top carton should be rinsed, dried, flattened and then taken to a dedicated recycling container. If the gable top carton has a closure, it can be left in place for recycling or taken out and recycled separately as plastic. Please note that the renewable gable top is not biodegradable.

Valio's plant-based gable top carton received the international Scanstar award

Valio's project Fully plant-based gable top roll-out will be rewarded with Nordic Scanstar 2017 packaging award in the Environment category of the competition. Scanstar is a Nordic packaging competition organised by Scandinavian Packaging Association, SPA, since 1969. The awards will be presented at the end of November at the PackSummit event in Lahti, Finland.

See an animation in Finnish about plant-based cartons: https://youtu.be/mjtS1kG0sus

* Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Tetra Pak® carton packages and alternative packaging systems for liquid food on the Nordic market, Institut für Energie und Umweltforschung Heidelberg, April 2017: https://www.ifeu.de/oekobilanzen/pdf/LCA_Nordic_final_report_incl_Critical_Review.pdf

Summary of the study:

 https://www.ifeu.de/oekobilanzen/pdf/LCA_Nordic_Breakfast_Seminar_Stockholm_April2017_clean.pdf

Further information:

Tanja Virtanen-Leppä, Head of Packaging, Valio, email: tanja.virtanen-leppa@valio.fi