Packaging chestnut

The old packaging chestnut about the sustainability virtues of plastic bottles versus cartons is still a difficult one for some, as Elopak’s Chief marketing Officer explains: “For years beverage producers have agonised over a seemingly simple decision: bottles or cartons? This apparently straightforward question has serious consequences for how brands present themselves on the shelves and communicate their commitment to sustainability”.

While both plastic bottles and paperboard cartons are widely recycled, recent research shows substantial environmental benefits for companies choosing to use cartons. An independent Life Cycle Assessment carried out by the University of Southampton comparing different types of packaging for milk and fruit juice found that beverage cartons had a significantly lower impact on the environment than either glass or plastic bottles.

At Elopak, we have long believed that beverage cartons offer a natural and convenient alternative to plastic bottles which fit within a low carbon, circular economy. Now, more brands than ever are waking up to this fact.

In October 2021, Scottish family dairy Graham’s switched from plastic bottles to cartons; packaging its line of organic milk in 500ml Pure-Pak® cartons made with Natural Brown Board. The decision followed extensive customer research, which showed that 76% of consumers choose their food and drink based on sustainability. 59% of respondents also said that reducing plastic waste was important. Faced with these facts, Graham’s Managing Director Robert Graham said “It was clear that any change in packaging must present no compromise on freshness and quality – delivering the same fresh milk in a better package for the environment.” He therefore opted for Pure-Pak® cartons, citing that they are made from renewable forest-based materials which are responsibly sourced and manufactured using 100% renewable electricity.

In a similar vein, Morrisons – the U.K.’s fourth largest supermarket – also recently switched from bottles to cartons for its line of own-brand fruit juice. In November 2021, the retail giant opted for 1l Pure-Pak® Sense cartons which it nicknamed ‘our clever cartons’. On the side of the packaging, the supermarket described the switch as a “more sustainable option, with a lower carbon footprint”.

By placing sustainability at the forefront of its packaging choices, Morrisons demonstrated a similar awareness of consumers’ environmental concerns. Additionally, by choosing Pure-Pak® Sense cartons with easy-folding lines, it helps customers to more easily recycle their packaging once they’ve finished enjoying the product.

As more brands makes the switch from bottles to cartons, it seems as though sustainability may be the final word in this debate. At Elopak, we look forward to helping brands accelerate this transition and enabling more customers to make environmentally conscious choices.

All comments attributable to Elopak Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Verhelst.

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Written by Dominy Jones