A cheese wrapper made from whey? Biodegradable milk bottles that turn in to organic matter? Yogurt wrapped in edible packaging? Where is innovation in packaging going, what impact does it have on the carbon footprint of dairy products and which sustainable packaging concepts will appeal to consumers?
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Rosemont, Ill., has conducted life cycle assessments (LCA) on fluid milk, cheese and whey. Now it is beginning a LCA on yogurt. One of the parameters that is looked at during a life assessment is packaging. For fluid milk, packaging was responsible for 3.5% of the carbon footprint; it was 1.3% for cheese and whey packaging. While it is completely inappropriate and illogical to compare one to the other, it is appropriate to note that in both cases packaging contributed the least in terms of each product’s carbon footprint. That isn’t to say packaging is insignificant, because all parts of the carbon footprint hold an opportunity to improve the dairy industry’s life cycle assessments. Packaging is highly visible to consumers who are demanding that products be sustainable. So ignoring this piece of the puzzle would be foolhardy.