Supermarket Morrisons has announced that it will replace HDPE bottles for its own brand milk with Tetra Pak cartons.
Nine types of Morrisons fresh milk will make the switch with the retailer saying that plastic bottles used for milk represent 10% of all the plastic it uses.
Its own label fresh juice will also move from plastic bottles to cartons to save a further 678 tonnes per year.
According to Morrisons, the Tetra Pak cartons will be made from FSC certified paperboard, a very thin layer of plastic coating and twist caps made from polyethylene.
Morrisons dairy category director Tony Fearon said: “Fresh milk does not need to be in a plastic bottle. It keeps just as fresh in a carton.
“Fresh milk is the top user of plastic packaging in our stores, so this will result in significant plastic reduction. Tetra Pak has also been independently verified as a better sustainable packaging option. If customers take to it, we could be looking to move all of our fresh milk to Tetra Pak cartons in time.”
What does Morrisons think it is doing?
In my opinion, this is not a sensible move by the supermarket.
Firstly, there is an established and successful closed loop model for recycling HDPE bottles. These are collected, recycled and turned back into milk bottles. It works.
Secondly, Tetra Paks are really difficult to sort separately to paper grades, so become a contaminant. They need to be collected separately, but many local authorities mix them with paper. That thin layer of plastic Morrisons talks about, therefore becomes a contaminant.
Tetra Paks have their own recycling processes, but they are more complex to recycle than HDPE bottles because they are multi-material packaging. This also seems to go against the idea of the Resources & Waste Strategy that products should be designed to be simple to recycle.
Finally, this confuses messages. It suggests Morrisons is replacing plastic packaging with a more sustainable option, which many experts would suggest isn’t true.