Talk about waste reduction and using resources more wisely and the conversation will often turn to re-thinking products at the design stage. Milk bottle manufacturer Nampak’s recent unveiling of its new lightweight milk bottle range, which uses on average 15% less material by weight, is an illustration of exactly that. The plastic container manufacturer makes around two billion milk bottles a year, and its customers include all the main dairies.
This summer, the first of Nampak’s patented Infini HDPE milk bottles will start hitting the supermarket shelves and working their way into the nation’s waste and recycling streams, replacing the previous design which has been in existence for about 14 years.
“Until now, lightweighting has been simply achieved by using less material in making the standard bottle design”
Nampak business development director James Crick explains: “The new bottle design is the result of two and half years of research and is actually the sixth version proposed.” It represents £9m-worth of investment on implementation and £1m on developing the patented design.
What the manufacturer has done is create a bottle with less-defined corners, so saving on the plastic material blown out to make those corners. In doing this, Nampak found it could create a bottle that used less material but still had the same strength. “We wanted it to be fit for purpose,” Crick explains.
To aid this, the new design has a handle positioned on the corner edge rather than the centre for easier removal from the fridge - a feature Crick says received very positive feedback from consumers. While the initiative has been Nampak-led, it will help to contribute towards environmental commitments made by the grocery and dairy sectors.
“Our customers have consistently asked for lighter weight bottles that will not only run down their existing lines but will also help them further achieve Government and industry targets such as Courtauld Commitment 2 and the current Milk Roadmap,” Crick explains.
“Until now, lightweighting has been simply achieved by using less material in making the standard bottle design, but there is a limit to how thin the walls can be and still be fit for purpose. What we have done is to go back to first principles and change the design of the bottle so that it requires less material to manufacture.”
In terms of recyclability, the new design can be recycled in the same way as existing bottles and will continue to contain recycled HDPE content, currently supplied by Closed Loop and Biffa Polymers: “We are using the same material and the bottles will be able to be separated in the same way, but they will offer carbon savings of around 23,000 tonnes a year.”
Think about the year-on-year carbon and material savings possible, and going back to the drawing board has certainly been a wise move.
- Via the Milk Roadmap, the dairy industry has set the following targets for recycled content in HDPE milk bottles: 10% by 2010 or sooner; 30% by 2015 or sooner; 50% by 2020 or sooner.
- Voluntary agreement, Courtauld Commitment 2, includes: targets to reduce the weight, increase recycling rates and increase recycled content in grocery packaging, while reducing the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10%.