Plastic recycling accelerates: Valio brings recycled plastic to food packaging

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Valio is among the first food companies to begin using recycled plastic. This development in packaging is part of a larger goal: the food company wants to cut milk’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035.

Plastic is needed for all food products that keep for a long time, as without the plastic protection, the food would spoil before it even reaches the fridges at home. Packaging has a vitally important task – to prevent a larger environmental hazard: food waste. Plastic becomes a problem if it ends up in nature.

Every one of us can help with our own actions and recycle. It’s now possible to use recycled plastic in food packages. Valio’s delicacy cheeses’ new packages are now made from at least 90% recycled plastic. Over 50% of Mifu slice and Mifu jauhis packages’ plastic is recycled. We intend to ramp up our recycled plastic usage in the future.

- Using recycled plastic reduces the plastic industry’s environmental emissions by 40-60 percent compared to making the plastic from fossil oil. Our goal is that in 2020, all Valio sliced cheese packages in Finland are made from at least 50-percent recycled plastic. In the future, roughly 10 percent of all our packaging plastic in Finland will be recycled. That matters a lot when it comes to the environment, says Juhana Pilkama, package development manager.

Many struggle with plastic recycling and don't know where different types of plastic go. Juhana Pilkama says the most important thing is to recycle the plastic and it isn’t that big of a dead if a package ends up in the wrong bin once in a while.

- All recycled plastic is sorted, washed carefully and checked for material. Sorting machines handle possible mistakes, which does come with an additional cost, but that is the lesser of two evils compared to throwing all your plastic in mixed waste. In the future, we intend to clarify the recycling instructions we print on our packages to make recycling easier, says Juhana Pilkama.

From plant-based packages to recycled plastic

Valio has worked, over the years, to reduce the amount of plastic and to develop our packaging materials.

In 2015, Valio introduced 100-percent plant-based cartons to Finland’s stores. These cartons are made out of wood, and the thin protective plastic film from the sugarcane industry’s waste, i.e. excess plant parts. The caps are also fully plant-based.

- Packages have an environmental impact of only ca. two percent of the entire food product’s environmental load when it comes to carbon dioxide. Despite that, we want to reduce our packaging’s environmental load further. At the same time, we are working with dairy farms, among others, to reduce milk production’s climate emissions, says Pilkama.

In 2019, Valio is discontinuing its use of black-dyed plastic in Finland. Current recycling devices cannot identify the black colour, which means black plastic packages don’t get recycled.

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Valio, offering the taste of Nordic nature since 1905, is a brand leader and the biggest dairy business in Finland and a major player in the international dairy ingredients market. The company is owned by dairy cooperatives comprising some 5,100 dairy farmers.

Wellbeing is at the heart of Valio’s world leading technology innovations, expertise and products that are made from clean Finnish milk and other ingredients. Our product development follows in the footsteps of Nobel Prize winner A. I. Virtanen, and the company holds 350 patents in 50 countries. Our efforts to improve animal wellbeing are resolute, and we know that only healthy cows can produce premium milk products. Valio’s milk ranks among the cleanest in the world, and we have zero tolerance for antibiotic residue in milk.

Valio has net sales of EUR 1.7 billion and is Finland’s biggest food exporter. Valio products are found in some 60 countries and account for 30% of Finland’s total food exports. Valio seeks strong growth in international markets and has subsidiaries in Russia, Sweden, the Baltics, USA and China.

Valio – Together we make life better.