German supermarket giant Aldi has teamed up with its milk supplier Müller to trial a new type of plastic top that will make it easier for consumers to recycle own-brand dairy milk bottles.
The new cap will be introduced across Aldi’s own-brand bottled semi-skimmed milk in stores in Liverpool, Manchester and Cheshire. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to all Müller-supplied Aldi stores in the country, which could bring up to 60 tonnes or recycled plastic back into food-grade packaging.
Made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the clear milk caps will replace the green tops typically found on semi-skimmed milk bottles in the UK. While green caps are made from the same type of plastic, colored plastic cannot be currently recycled back into food-grade packaging. "[There is] higher demand for recycled HDPE than supply, [and] by keeping the material within a ‘closed loop’ system, there can be more rHDPE available on the market, further reducing dependency on virgin plastic," a Müller spokesperson explained. "Our fresh milk bottles already contain up to 40% recycled material, but with access to more, we can partner with our customers to increase this further."
Eight in 10 shoppers support the strategy
The trial follows in the footsteps of a similar scheme conducted by British supermarket Waitrose, also in a partnership with Müller, which led the supermarket to replace all colored milk tops with clear ones across its own-brand milks.
"Prior to the Waitrose trial, we conducted some research which found that that consumers support the change, if it further improves the availability of food grade recycled plastic material," the Müller spokesperson told DairyReporter. "We found that just over half of all shoppers look for the color of milk caps when selecting their milk in store, while others either use the different colored labels, remember the previous location in the fridge, or use the fixture signage."
But eight in 10 shoppers had said they would opt for a bottle with a recyclable clear cap if given the choice.
Aldi’s plastics and packaging director Richard Gorman echoed the view that consumer perceptions were shifting in favor of more sustainable packaging options. "We know it’s becoming increasingly important to our customers that their everyday products are environmentally-friendly, and we are constantly reviewing ways to become a more sustainable supermarket,” he explained. “By trialling clear milk caps, we are making our milk bottles easier to recycle, so they can be turned back into new packaging.”
Aldi is currently on target to have half of its packaging made from recycled materials by 2025.