05. October 2023

From plastic to carton

Why the switch pays off for beverage producers

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the amount of plastic waste produced worldwide will almost triple by 2060. The packaging sector contributes the most to plastic production. Many plastic containers, including drinks bottles, are only used for a short time and then disposed of.
The food and beverage industry is pursuing ambitious plastic savings targets. But many of these have not yet been achieved, as shown in exclusive research carried out by the German radio network Deutsche Welle. According to the research, two-thirds of all promises to reduce plastic waste have not been implemented. More consistent measures and steps are therefore needed in the product range and packaging strategy than before.
An important driver of plastic reduction is the desire of consumers to shop sustainably. This is shown by representative studies carried out by the market research institute Mintel:

Plastic is not the first choice for many consumers

45 percent of Germans say they always or mostly avoid products in plastic packaging
60% of consumers in the UK consider plastic bottles to be the least environmentally friendly beverage packaging.

Beverage cartons are a sustainable choice

One solution is to switch from plastic to carton packaging. There will soon be an additional incentive for this in Germany, because the exemption from the single-use deposit for dairy products in plastic bottles will no longer apply from 2024. In addition, beverage cartons are at the forefront in terms of sustainability, as a study by the FH Campus Vienna shows. It compared four drinking yoghurt containers, including a PET bottle, an HDPE bottle and two beverage cartons (with and without aluminium). According to the study, beverage cartons produce 42 to 67 percent less CO2 emissions. At the same time, their recyclability is 52 to 60 percent higher than that of plastic bottles. The study showed no significant differences in terms of packaging efficiency.

These customers have already made a packaging change

Britvic, United Kingdom

A particularly prominent example of the switch from plastic to carton is the fruit drink brand Robinsons from British beverage producer Britvic. Instead of PET bottles, Robinsons launched its new fruit juice concentrate in Pure-Pak® cartons, which are made from 89% plant-based materials. With the new concentrate, the manufacturer offers more serves per package while reducing the use of plastic overall. The cartons replace as much as three individual bottles of concentrate, allowing for an 85% reduction in plastic per serving compared to a one-litre bottle of Robinson’s Double Concentrate. The launch initially took place in selected Tesco stores.
“As a brand, Robinsons is continuously innovating and is committed to improving the environmental impact we have. Squash is already a sustainable product due to its concentrated format. Making Robinsons available in this new format allows consumers to feel confident in the knowledge that the pack they’ve chosen has more serves, but used less packaging per serve, and can be recycled once finished.”
Fiona Graham, Innovation Lead for Robinsons

Boxed Water, USA

The water bottler is setting a good example when it comes to switching from plastic to carton. As part of a cooperation, it supports Alaska Airlines in reducing its plastic waste. According to the airline, it saves 2.2 million pounds of single-use plastic per year. This corresponds to the weight of 24 Boeing 737. You can find more best practices on water in beverage cartons here.
“Our partnership with Boxed Water enables us to offer our guests a significantly more renewable packaged water option. We have received positive feedback from employees and guests and are excited to be expanding to more flights.”
Diana Birkett Rakow, VP Public Affairs and Sustainability at Alaska Airlines

Graham’s The Family Dairy, UK

The dairy already used beverage cartons over 20 years ago. When HDPE bottles became the standard in the UK market, the company also made the switch. Two years ago, the company reinstalled two high-speed filling machines at its Southhampton facility and now only fills fresh milk in Pure-Pak® cartons. These are today significantly lower in emissions, more efficient and lighter than 20 years ago. As one of the first dairies in the UK market, Graham’s wants to contribute to the protection of the environment and climate with this measure.
“The carton provides the perfect opportunity to talk to our customers, and we use the side panel space to explain how our new paperboard packaging is helping us eliminate 1,000 tons of plastic.”
Robert Graham, Managing Director at Graham’s The Family Dairy

LUORO, Germany

Many non-food products are also suitable for filling in liquid cartons. LUORO, the manufacturer of hygiene and personal care products, is one of the pioneers in the DACH region. Since this year, the company has been offering mouthwash from its Paperdent brand in our D-PAK™ cartons. Our packaging solution enables LUORO to save more than 80 percent of plastic compared to conventional plastic packaging. You can find more best practices on the topic of non-food here.
“We chose Elopak’s carton packaging for various reasons. On the one hand, because of the significant reduction in plastic compared to a conventional plastic bottle. On the other hand, because this packaging is mainly made from wood, a renewable raw material, and therefore has a low carbon footprint. And we were also impressed by the recyclability.”
Dr. Louis Bahlmann, Co-Founder & CEO of Luoro

Switching to cartons pays off

By switching from plastic to carton, manufacturers are sending a positive signal for environmental protection and a more sustainable future. The growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions and the upcoming lifting of the exemption from single-use deposits for dairy products in plastic bottles in Germany from 2024 are clear signs of the need for this change.
Robinsons uses Elopak Pure-Pak® cartons
The Elopak Pure-Pak® system
Packaging by Nature - with the premium sustainable packaging Pure-Pak® by Elopak