Arla Foods explores fiber-based caps for milk cartons

Arla Foods explores fiber-based caps for milk cartons
Photo - Blue Ocean Closures/Patrik Fahlin

The dairy cooperative is teaming up with Blue Ocean Closures in a formal partnership to create a fiber-based cap for its milk cartons. This could be a first in the dairy industry and would reduce Arla’s plastic consumption by more than 500 tonnes annually if implemented.

The cardboard milk carton is a well-known classic in several countries and while the packaging has undergone several transformations over the years and is now a near-optimal choice in terms of food safety and sustainability, the time has come to completely rethink a small yet significant part; the cap.

Making up for around 23% of the plastic used in Arla’s cartons, the farmer-owned dairy cooperative has now set its sights on the caps as part of its sustainable packaging strategy to eliminate use of fossil-based virgin plastic in its packaging by 2030. Arla Foods is partnering with Swedish start-up Blue Ocean Closures in an effort to create a solution that could see the dairy cooperative introduce the first fiber-based cap on milk cartons in the industry.

“Improving our packaging, including reducing our use of plastic, is imperative to us and we know that consumers are also very invested in this area. This project to explore what could very well be the first fiber-based cap on milk cartons is very exciting and shows that we at Arla are constantly looking to improve and lead the transformation of sustainable packaging," says chief commercial officer at Arla Foods Peter Giørtz-Carlsen.

Paving the way for global change

Blue Ocean Closures is a world leader in fiber-based closures and have already achieved landmarks in sustainable packaging. The cap has a body made of sustainably sourced FSC fiber material combined with a thin barrier coating. Using advanced, proprietary vacuum press forming, this allows for a cap that is biobased, ocean biodegradable and recyclable as paper.

Lars Sandberg, chief executive officer at Blue Ocean Closures, states, “We are delighted to work with Arla, acting as a frontrunner to create a real difference in packaging sustainability. With increased fiber content, the solution will increase recyclability, starting in Scandinavia and paving the way for global change.”

Part owner of Blue Ocean Closures, ALPLA Group is involved in the technical development and Christian Zmölnig, Director Corporate Research, Development and Innovation, says, "As part of ALPLA's important strategic development in the circular economy, we see great potential in this collaboration between Arla and Blue Ocean Closures."

With funding from Arla Foods, the plan is now to develop a fully functional prototype and complete the testing phase by start of next year.

Consumer convenience drives continued need for caps

With the cap responsible for approx. 23 per cent of the total plastic used for Arla’s milk cartons, it is natural to ask why the dairy cooperative is not removing the cap altogether. Arla did in fact do that on its Danish organic range back in 2020 but it was not without criticism from consumers unhappy with the loss of convenience.

“We know that consumers like the convenience a cap provides and while we have removed the cap completely from some of our ranges, we acknowledge this need and want to provide a choice for consumers . But if we have to have a cap, we want to create the best possible one and that is what we are doing now,” says Peter Giørtz-Carlsen.

Arla Foods uses milk cartons in several markets including Denmark, Sweden and Netherlands.

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