Milk in Paper Bottles

Some time ago I wrote about the GreenBottle introduced in late 2008 by Suffolk’s Marybelle Dairy to sell its milk in ASDA stores located in eastern England. The GreenBottle is made from paperboard pulp with a plastic inner bag. As a matter of fact you could call it a bag-in-box or better still a ‘bag-in-bottle’. And now the East of England Co-operative Society introduced the environmentally-friendly GreenBottle in one of its busiest stores, filled with milk from the same MaryBelle Dairy.

Time to spend some words on this GreenBottle again, particularly because in the USA Straus Organic Dairy recently introduced a similar bottle manufactured by Ecologic Brands Inc. Furthermore in a second part of this article I’ll describe a few nice eco-alternatives for the milk packages of Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc or EloPak, recently created by some designers.

The GreenBottle – A Bag-in-Bottle
When you take a look at the GreenBottle with its mat white appearance, it looks like a HDPE plastic milk container. However it is a double folded tray made from paperboard pulp, a system identical to the well-known pulp packages for eggs. The outer shell is made from recycled paper (90.7% waste paper) which can be recycled again, or if left it will just decompose within a matter of weeks. The plastic inner liner, which takes up less than 0.5% of the space of a HDPE plastic bottle if dumped in a landfill, prevents liquid from contaminating the paper case. The bag can be made from conventional Low Density Polypropylene or a Corn Starch alternative.
The GreenBottle consumes about a third of the energy required to make a plastic bottle and a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) completed by PIRA found that the carbon footprint of the GreenBottle is 48% lower than the traditional HDPE milk bottle.

To get this result some handling has to be done: First a loose inner bag is inserted into a paper spout. The bag is then folded and with the spout, placed into the outer shell. The bottle rim is glued, folded over and closed. Finally the bottle is filled, the spout is closed and sealed, and the label is applied.

Although the final result looks and handles like a plastic milk container, some resistance of the consumer was expected. The opposite, however, is true. According to MaryBelle Dairy the GreenBottle is extremely popular with its customers, who welcome the opportunity to purchase milk in an environmentally friendly container.

Straus Organic Dairy
In the USA, not a place where innovations in milk packages are on the doorstep, Straus recently followed in the footsteps of Asda and Coop. Straus Family Creamery, based in Marshall, California, is one of the nation’s most respected organic dairies, known for its strong environmental stewardship and loyal consumer base.

Straus Organic Milk bottle is in principal also a bag-in-bottle packaging. Note the (suspicious) similarities with the GreenBottle. The exterior shell of the bottle is made from OCC (old corrugated cardboard) that has been thermoformed into a rigid container using advanced egg carton technology. The inner liner is a thin mono-polymer milk pouch that is recyclable with #4 plastics and easy to adapt to bio plastic innovations. The bottle is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable.

Ecologic Brands Inc., which manufacturers the bottle, worked in partnership with Straus Family Creamery to introduce the Ecologic bottle with non-fat milk at the Whole Foods’ store in Oakland. The Ecologic bottle replaces Straus’ primary packaging, a half-gal, returnable, reusable glass bottle.
While the bottle’s structural design is very detailed in its replication of Straus’ glass bottle, the materials used for the Ecologic bottle were purposely kept as close to their natural states as possible.

It will be interesting to see the reaction of the US consumers to this new packaging from Ecologic – so far efforts to create more sustainable milk packaging modelled after Canadian and European packaging formats have been largely unsuccessful in the US market.

But there is more going on in the milk paper bottles. Although Tetra Pak, SIG and EloPak do anything to get more and more eco-friendly (Forest Stewardship, green PE, recycling initiatives), in general it can be said that the environmental conscious consumer, mainly due to a lack of knowledge, is averse of the milk or beverage carton, as it still has the name not to be recyclable and as such will have a disproportional share on landfills.

Some creative designers and design students came up with the following ideas. Still in design stage and not yet ready for production, but worth giving it some thought.
Read part 2 of this article, coming up tomorrow.

Update: I received the following additonal information.

On behalf of Straus Family Creamery, I’d like to make a clarification- the Ecologic bottle DOES NOT replace our reusable glass bottle packaging. We love our glass bottles and so do our customers and we will not be replacing them.
We have been testing the new Ecologic bottle to see how it holds up in the supply chain and see if it is something consumers want. If we do decide to use it, this would be in addition to our glass bottles for those stores and consumers which can’t or choose not to purchase glass.
Brie Johnson – http://www.strausfamilycreamery.com

9 responses to “Milk in Paper Bottles

  1. Hello! Thank you for your post on this subject. On behalf of Straus Family Creamery, I’d like to make a clarification- the Ecologic bottle DOES NOT replace our reusable glass bottle packaging. We love our glass bottles and so do our customers and we will not be replacing them.
    We have been testing the new Ecologic bottle to see how it holds up in the supply chain and see if it is something consumers want. If we do decide to use it, this would be in addition to our glass bottle line for those stores and consumers which can’t or choose not to purchase glass.

  2. Dear Anton,

    Is this bottle is suitable for hot filling/ how this bottle is mfging.
    What is board GSM/ BS ?
    Pls mail the supplier address.

    • Depends on the temp of hotfilling but using a PP inner pouch might solve the problem.
      GSM normally stands for grams per square meter (gsm), g/m2 or gr/m2
      Where did you read BS?
      For all these questions consult the packaging dictionary, it’s there for you to use.
      Read the article and you will know how the bottles are manufactured. Click the links and ask the suppliers for more info.

  3. Why not build a reusable pitcher to hold the bagged milk and dump the hard container completely?

    Quality Dairy in the Michigan area use to do this decades ago. I have no idea if they are still selling milk by the bag, but, milk in a bag is certainly not a new concept.

    The PE injection molded pitcher was designed to hold the bag with its corner cut off. I never used the process so I do not know how the bag was resealed to keep the milk relatively fresh. I’m sure a metal clip or bag clip worked well.

    The pitcher had a corner to catch the bag to prevent the bag from sliding out while the milk was being poured out of the bag.

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    • Sairam, milk is a beverage and yes you can use the paper bottle as an alternative for beverage. Nut only the still ones, carbonated beverages can’t be filled in these bottles.

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