Woolworths launches first plant-based milk bottle

woolworths milk now supplied in plant-based bottlesWoolworths has announced the launch of an innovative green milk bottle consisting of 30% plant-based plastic, a first for the dairy industry in South Africa.  The entire Woolworths fresh milk range will now be packaged in the new plant-based bottles, giving consumers the opportunity to enjoy milk today with tomorrow in mind.

This latest milestone on the Woolworths Good Business Journey has been made possible through innovations in polymer production by Braskem, one of the world’s largest biopolymer producers, based in Brazil.  World leaders in the production of bio fuel from sugar cane, Brazil is now also leading the way in the production of bio based plastic. How? By replacing non-renewable fossil based polymers with a plant-based alternative.  Following the same plastic production process, the plant-based polyethylene is chemically and structurally exactly the same as conventional polyethylene.  Due to this, it provides the same quality protection when used in food packaging, and can be seamlessly mixed with a regular fossil-fuel alternative.  This means that the new bottle remains 100% recyclable.

“As a leader in innovations that lead to greater sustainability, Woolworths is constantly exploring and considering emerging technologies that will help to reduce our carbon footprint, especially when it comes to packaging,” says Justin Smith, the Woolworths Group Head of Sustainability. “However, the launch of our green milk bottle is more than just improving packaging – by bringing this innovation to South Africa, Woolworths is also providing vital support to a developing industry that is replacing the non-renewable fossil feedstock in regular plastic production with a renewable plant-based alternative. This has the potential to transform plastic from a material that is currently causing climate change to one that helps mitigate it.”

We are very reliant on plastic, especially when it comes to packaging.  However, sheer volumes and disposability result in plastic being a major environmental concern.  There are many efforts focused on finding alternative, environmentally-friendly materials or plastic recycling innovations.  But this is not the limit of where our efforts should rest.  Braskem is distinguishing itself as a forerunner in determining the ways to produce more environmentally-friendly plastics because they are plant-based.

Irrigated largely by rainfall and capturing carbon from the atmosphere as it grows, Brazil’s current sugar cane production utilised by Braskem represents just 0.02% of the country’s arable land and is widely regarded as highly efficient and environmentally-friendly.

“We’ve looked at this holistically, and we are very pleased to be able to offer customers the full range of Woolworths’ fresh milk packaged in green bottles that are kinder to the planet and help us move towards a more sustainable future together,” concludes Smith.

For more info: www.woolworths.co.za/greenbottle

good reasons for using plant-based plastic instead of conventional polyethylene

What does plastic produced from a renewable source mean?

Renewable resources are a part of the Earth’s natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere. Producing plastic from a renewable source means that instead of using a finite resource to make plastic, like coal or oil, a renewable resource that can be grown again and again is used like sugarcane.  This is a similar concept to switching to a solar geyser as your hot water source in your home.

Why is this a better option?

In our fight against climate change, it is important to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  Plant-based plastic replaces the need for fossil fuels. Polyethylene (plastic) is conventionally produced from raw materials such as oil or natural gas, which are non-renewable, as they are derived from fossil fuels.

Where does the plant- based plastic come from as this technology doesn’t exist in SA yet?

Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel and the largest from sugar cane.  It has been producing ethanol fuel for over 40 years.  Brazil’s ethanol fuel program is based on one of the most efficient agricultural technologies for sugarcane cultivation in the world. Braskem, the largest petrochemical company in Latin America, based in Brazil, developed the technology to produce green ethylene from green ethanol in 2007, and is continually working to improve its production efficiency/ technology.

Brazil is known for the Amazon rainforests – do the sugar plantations impact on this?

No, Brazil is a huge country and 85% of the sugar cane plantations are concentrated in the South-Central region, which is more than 2500 km from the Amazon rainforest.

Does sugarcane cultivation use only rainwater?

Sugarcane in Brazil is almost completely not irrigated as natural rainfall typically meets the crop’s water needs.

Does the growing consumption of sugarcane ethanol for sugarcane plastic production have any impact on food production?

Today, Brazil has 330 million hectares of arable land, and only 1.4% of all arable land in Brazil is dedicated to ethanol production.  The consumption of ethanol to produce sugarcane plastic represents about 1.7% of the total production of ethanol, or 0.02% of Brazil’s arable land.  The existence of available land, combined with a possible intensification of livestock production, makes Brazil a country with room for expansion of agriculture.

How does sugarcane capture CO2 and reduce the carbon footprint?

Plants capture CO2 from the atmosphere through their leaves. They need CO2 for photosynthesis, which is how a plant grows. The CO2 captured during the sugarcane cultivation process (from sugarcane growth until its production) remains stored during the plastic’s entire life cycle (as long as it is not incinerated). Every kilogram of Braskem’s sugarcane-based plastic captures and stores 2.78 kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Why has Woolworths decided to incorporate plant-based plastic in your milk bottles?

It is in line with our Good Business Journey.  We are constantly looking for responsible packaging innovations that support our Good Business Journey strategy.  It’s what customers expect and it’s the right thing to do.

What % of the bottle comes from sugarcane?

30% of the plastic is derived from plant-based ethanol.

Why 30% – why not 100%?

We’re on a journey and we needed to start somewhere.  Depending on supply and demand we will in time increase the percentage of the plant-based plastic in our milk bottles

How many milk bottles in the Woolworths range will have 30% plant-based plastic content?

All Woolworths fresh milk bottles i.e. 1 l, 2 l & 3 l in all three fat variants but not the fresh flavoured milks.

Is the bottle still the same?

Yes, plant-based plastic is physically and chemically identical to traditional fossil fuel based plastic.

What does the ASTM code on the bottle mean?

The ASTM code confirms that the bottles have been tested against an International standard ensuring that it contains 30% plant-based plastic.

Can the Woolworths 30% plant-based plastic milk bottle still be recycled?

Yes, plant-based plastic is physically and chemically identical to traditional fossil fuel plastic. This means it can be recycled in the same chain used for recycling traditional high-density polyethylene (#2) from fossil fuel sources – unlike many other bio-based plastics for which no recycling system exists.

Can I tell the difference from the previous milk bottle?

No, the change is unnoticeable as plant-based plastic is physically and chemically identical to traditional fossil fuel plastic. The same performance you love and expect but in a more sustainable bottle. That’s why we have labelled the bottle ‘Green Bottle’ as without this, there’s no way a customer can tell the difference.

What are Woolworths future plans with plant-based plastic?

Depending on supply and demand we will in time increase the inclusion of the plant-based plastic in our milk bottles and possibly look at extending this technology to other product / packaging categories.

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