OPINION: Collectively we must support farmers to become sustainable.
Brownes Dairy, Western Australia’s biggest processor, is ditching fossil fuel derived, plastic lined milk cartons for sugarcane and wood -- a first for the Australian dairy industry.
Brownes Dairy chief executive Tony Girgis told Dairy News that from the end of November, most products will appear in Tetra Pak’s bio based board cartons made entirely from wood fibre and sugar cane.
Girgis says the move is part of the company’s sustainable strategy aimed at reducing its environmental footprint through innovation. Over the years, Brownes Dairy has reduced the use of plastic in packaging, milk wastage during processing and use of cardboard.
Girgis says when Tetra Pak approached the company with the new milk carton technology, “we decided to give it a crack”.
“There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of recycling, but less focus on how we can make products more sustainable from the beginning: we wanted to improve the sustainability of our packaging across the entire lifecycle of our products.”
While making the change to bio based milk cartons, integrity of product has been paramount.
“We have tested the bio based board repeatedly to ensure our product quality, product freshness and food safety are fully maintained,” said Girgis. The company has received mostly positive feedback so far.
He says farmer suppliers are also happy supplying milk to a progressive company focussing on sustainability.
Brownes Dairy will switch 25 of its milk carton products to the new sustainable packaging – about 17.8 million milk cartons per year. Products include fresh milk, flavoured milk and creams.
“Brownes Dairy scoured the planet in search of the best sustainable packaging on the market. Making the switch to sugarcane is not only better for the environment, but now our consumers can trust the package is made from raw, plant based materials,” said Girgis.
Tetra Pak has supplied at least 500 million renewable packs since its bio based board was introduced to dairy by the Finnish brand Valio in 2015.
Brownes Dairy will be the first company in Australia to integrate the renewable cartons across its entire milk carton range, and “proud to be the first company in Australia to embrace this new environmentally friendly packaging,” Girgis said.
Brownes Dairy has been owned by Chinese dairy giant Shanghai Ground Food Tech since 2017. It was started in 1886 by farmer Edward Browne.
The company collects about 150m litres of milk, which is 42% of the state’s total supply, and has 53 farmer suppliers.
Brownes Dairy makes fresh milk for sale within WA: products with longer shelf life are sold in other states and exported, mostly to Asia.
The company’s product range includes fresh milk, flavoured milk, cream, yoghurt and dairy desserts.