Collecting plastic milk pouches post usage is not practical for consumers or companies, says Dairy Industry
Maharashtra: To better align with the extended producer responsibilities (EPR) guidelines set by the environment ministry, key stakeholders of the Maharashtra dairy industry are considering PET bottles as an alternative to packaging milk. Considering consumers’ inability to wash and store milk pouches and the high cost of collecting milk pouches post usage, PET bottles seems to be an ideal substitute- since it is reusable, resealable, easy to collect and the most recycled plastic globally. The rate of PET bottles recycling is 80% in India, which is far higher in comparison to other packaging materials like tetra pack/brick cartons (05-30%) and glass bottles (45%) – according to industry estimates.
The Maharashtra dairy industry produces 1.7 crore liter of milk every day, 70% out of which is packed in plastic pouches, which means around 2.4 crore milk pouches (500ml) are used every day by consumers. The exact collection and recycling estimates are not available for plastic milk pouches post usage since it is handled by the unorganized sector.
In an attempt to curtail the pollution caused by the packaging waste, the Maharashtra government implemented EPR guidelines and the dairy industry is expected to establish a mechanism to collect plastic milk pouches post usage.
“Establishing a post-usage collection mechanism is nearly impossible for plastic pouches considering consumers are needed to wash and store the plastic pouches at home, which is not feasible and rarely happens. Also, it is not economically viable to collect the pouches once they are dumped. On the other hand, packaging of milk in PET bottles will ensure higher collection and recycling rate, since these bottles attract a higher recycling cost and are the key source of income for ragpickers. A move towards packaging milk in PET bottles is considerable since it will help in aligning the dairy industry with the government guidelines,” said Mr. Prakash Kutwal, Founder & Chairman, Kutwal Foods.
Mr. Vishnu Hinge, Chairman, Pune District Milk Producers Federation said, “While plastic pouches are recyclable, but not everything which is recyclable actually gets recycled. The recycling rate of packaging material also depends on the collection mechanism, value of a material post usage & post recycling, etc. It is not possible for the industry to establish a buyback/recycling mechanism for milk pouches. If we consider the alternatives, so a shift towards PET bottles is desirable compared to other packaging materials like tetra pack or glass bottles. While, tetra pack also offers ease in transportation and attractive packaging opportunities like PET, but tetra pack is not a consumer-friendly, business-friendly or environment-friendly option since it will increase the cost of milk by INR 6-7 per liter and also has very low recycling rate and no reusability.
In India, currently, 12 lakh liters of milk is being packed in PET bottles every day. Also, Liquid dairy products like flavored milk, chaas, and Lassi also gets packed in PET bottles. Some of the biggest players that use PET bottles for fresh milk packaging are Maharashtra-based Pride of Cows and Happy Milk.
Mr. Pramod Sonawane, Pride of Cows (Parag Dairy) said, “Acceptability and demand are very strong for packaged milk bottles. We are the pioneers when it comes to packaging milk in PET bottles in India. The immense popularity and positive consumer feedback are testaments to our brand’s success. We chose to package our milk in PET bottles over pouches, since the transportation, storage, and post-usage collection is much easier compared to pouches and other packaging materials. Also, considering the competition in the dairy industry, it is essential to distinguish the brand from competitors. PET bottles can be molded and branded in endless ways, which is not possible with pouches. PET packaging also offers unique benefits to consumers – they are easy to handle, re-sealable, shock-resistant and transparent.”
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