Questions and answers

Packaging is an issue that many of us think about. Our awareness about the climate impacts of packaging and recycling has certainly increased. But in the flood of new packaging messages and terminology, it can sometimes feel difficult to keep up to speed. This page has answers to questions about packaging.

Is plastic even needed anymore?

Packaging has a vitally important task: the prevention of a larger environmental hazard – food waste. Plastic is needed for all food products with a long shelf-life; without it, the product would spoil before it even reaches the fridge at home. That’s why packaging is the good guy in this scenario. Plastic becomes a problem if it ends up in nature. Every one of us can help through our own actions and by recycling.

Why does a milk carton need plastic? And why do they have a cap?

Nearly all Valio products require packaging that is liquid-, vapour- or oxygen-proof. This means that the packaging must have a plastic layer or the package must be fully plastic. That’s why almost all packaging has at least some amount of plastic. For now, plastic is the best material for packaging food products: it protects the food, ensures hygiene and safety, and improves product shelf-life. The cap helps to prevent waste and makes it possible to take the leftover yoghurt with you.

How much does packaging contribute to a product’s carbon footprint?

The biggest factor impacting a product’s carbon footprint is food waste, which good packaging prevents. For example, the paperboard packaging of Valio’s one-litre reduced-fat milk carton accounts for about 2% of the entire product’s carbon footprint. The production of food always has a greater environmental and climate impact than the production of packaging. If more than 20 ml of reduced fat milk from a one-litre carton ends up down the drain as food waste, the emissions caused by the packaging have already been exceeded. Nevertheless, we want to further reduce the environmental load of our packaging. At the same time, we are working with dairy farms and others to reduce milk production’s climate emissions.

Why is recycling so important?

The production of packaging from virgin materials – whether plastic or paperboard – is nearly always more taxing on the environment than using recycled material, which is why recycling matters. And these days it’s also so easy to recycle! For instance, the recycled plastic we use for packaging is the same plastic you would recycle at home. It’s sorted and carefully cleaned, and then it’s used to make new plastic products. Recycled plastic packaging generates 40-60% less emissions compared to virgin plastic packaging. Already since 2019, Valio was among the first food companies to start using packaging made from recycled plastic. Currently, all sliced cheese packaging contains at least 55% recycled plastic. Over 90% of the artisan cheese packaging is made from recycled plastic. Recycled plastic is also used in some Valio MiFU® packaging. Packaging that uses recycled plastic is clearly marked.

What does ‘packaging made from recycled materials’ mean?

All of Valio’s gabled milk, sour milk, cream and yoghurt cartons are made from 100% renewable materials; the paperboard is made from wood, and the thin plastic film that protects the products is made from bioethanol. Even the caps are made from 100% renewable materials. Traditionally, plastic is made from fossil-based raw materials like petroleum. Plastics can also be made from renewable materials, like trees, food waste, or various plants, in the same way biofuels can be made to replace fossil fuels. The caps can be recycled with plastic and the cartons with cardboard.

There are so many types of plastic, and the recycling instructions can make your head spin. If I make a mistake when sorting the plastic waste, does it ruin the entire recyclable load?

Don’t worry! All recycled plastic is sorted carefully and the materials are checked. Sorting machines handle possible mistakes, which does add to the cost, but that’s the lesser of two evils compared to throwing all household packaging plastic in with mixed waste. So there is no need to be worried if a cup is occasionally put into the wrong recycling bin by mistake. All Valio’s plastic packaging can be put in the plastic collection bin with no worries. Plain-language instructions for sorting the packaging are included on every Valio package.

How do I start recycling?

Start by recycling one type of material, like paperboard or plastic. You’ll quickly see how easy it is and you can start sorting more. It’ll make you feel good and Mother Nature will thank you! Finding a suitable storage spot at home for the different materials is also a good first step. You can get started by reading the municipal waste guide. For example, HSY has published Waste guide, a waste sorting guide search engine that has comprehensive recycling instructions for different kinds of materials. In addition to the bins at residential waste shelters, waste is also collected at regional collection sites and by touring collection vehicles. Additional information about regional waste collection and municipal waste facilities is available on the kierrä website.

How clean does packaging have to be to recycle it?

Packaging should be rinsed or wiped of any food residue so that it can be stored at home without any odour issues. A small amount of water can be used to rinse packaging. The water can be recycled from handwashing or dishwashing. There’s no need to use soap or hot water to wash the packaging because that needlessly impacts the environment. If the plastic packaging is too difficult to clean, it can be put in the mixed waste.


Use a piece of bread to wipe an empty Oivariini® container; the container will still feel greasy, but you’ll clean any remaining traces of spread. Enjoying every last bit of the product reduces waste and makes the packing clean enough to be recycled.

How are new yoghurt cups made from paperboard?

Plastic cups can be manufactured using injection moulding technology in which hot plastic mass is injected into a cup-shaped mould that has a thin, printed label with product information. The mould is cooled, opened and the finished cup is taken out of the mould. The technology has been modified so that, instead of a plastic label, a thick paperboard label is used. This is how the new paperboard cups are created.

How do I organise recycling at home?

Practical and attractive recycling solutions encourage sorting. However, homes are not typically designed with an obvious place for each type of material, so many times the solutions require some creativity. We’ve put together some of the best tips to organise recycling.

How can the amount of waste be decreased?

Reducing the volume of waste not only makes your own daily life easier, it also reduces the load on the environment. For example, the 5 R approach (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle) is a good way to reduce the amount of waste. Prevent waste in the first place, for example by refusing free paper advertisements or disposable goods that are useless to you. Practice thoughtful consumption, increase the reuse of old products, e.g. using a plastic bag multiple times, or find new ways to use items, like using an old toothbrush in cleaning. If the life of an object can no longer be extended, recycle it so that it can be used to make new products. About 86% of Valio’s packaging materials can be used in the production of new products; our goal is to increase that number to 100% by the end of 2025.

Why aren’t packages clearly marked for recycling?

The meaning of the arrows, letter combinations and numbers indicating the recyclability of packaging isn’t always obvious to consumers. These markings are voluntary in Finland, and that’s why there are so many kinds of them. Easy-to-find, plain-language recycling instructions have been added to all Valio products because we want our packaging to be recycled into material that can be used to make new products.

What kind of wrapping should biowaste be packed in? Should bio-plastic bags be used?

This is a location-specific matter. Biowaste packaging instructions depend on how the waste is processed locally. Almost everywhere, biowaste can be wrapped in a paper bag, newspaper, uncoated cardboard or even a cereal box. In some places, biowaste can be packaged in biodegradable plastic bags. This should be verified with the municipal waste facility. Biowaste is usually moist, so bags that are not plastic tend to break easily. An egg carton or newspaper at the bottom of the biobag can absorb moisture and help keep the bag intact longer.

Still have questions about Valio’s packaging? Contact our consumer service.

How do I organise recycling at home?

Practical and attractive recycling solutions encourage sorting. However, homes are not typically designed with an obvious place for each type of material, so many times the solutions require some creativity. We’ve put together some of the best tips to organise recycling.

Valio people
Juhana Pilkama works to reduce food’s environmental load through future package development
Resource-efficient production