Dairy giant Arla has followed rival Muller in becoming the latest agri-food company to overhaul its entire range with new environmentally-friendly packaging.

Over the next seven months, Arla aims to make 600 million fresh milk cartons renewable and 560 million yoghurt pots recyclable, cutting 7,330t of carbon. The measures will come into effect across six countries - including the UK.

Arla’s head of Europe, Peter Giortz-Carlsen said: “We want to help people live a more sustainable life as well as feel good about what’s in their fridge.

Fresh milk and yoghurts are enjoyed on a daily basis in most households. That’s why these items topped our list of packaging to improve from a sustainability perspective and our pan-European presence enables us to leverage our scale and impact several markets simultaneously.

It is the first big move in Arla’s new sustainable packaging strategy. It is targeting a CO2 reduction of 30% by 2030, initially committing to reduce emissions from its packaging by approximately 8,000t of CO2 every year until then.

The ultimate aim is for its entire portfolio to be carbon net zero by 2050, in line with its overall climate ambition to become carbon net zero by 2050, announced last month.

The new packaging will be available for consumers in Arla’s six main European markets - Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.

The switch from fossil-based plastic to bio-based plastic derived from sugarcane or forest waste for Arla milk cartons will make them 100% renewable.

They also contribute 25% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared to their fossil-based plastic predecessors.

Making packaging more sustainable comes with many dilemmas, for example, it has to protect food, while maintaining its quality and freshness to avoid food waste.

At the same time, it relies on technological developments, material availability and the systems being in place to enable a more circular flow of plastic in society.

Other efforts

Past initiatives by Arla have included weight reductions, switching to bio-based plastics, incorporating recycled materials and replacing greenhouse gas-intensive materials.

Since 2005, Arla has reduced the CO2 impact of its packaging by 25%, equating to 123,000t of CO2 being diverted from the atmosphere.

The dairy processor has also taken more than 7,500t of plastic out of milk bottles in the UK. Arla milk bottles now contain up to 30% recycled HDPE plastic - a figure which is as high as 40% for Aylesbury dairy liquid milk.