Dairy milk processing plant

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Manufacturing, packaging and recycling

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Dairy packaging and sustainability

At the factory, processed milk is sent through a processing line to be packaged into cartons or bottles.

Cartons are made from cardboard lined with a polyethylene plastic, while plastic bottles are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

The cartons are stored flat until just before they’re filled. They’re then formed into their proper shape, filled with milk, heat sealed, stamped with the use-by date, packed into milk crates and stored in a cool room until they’re collected from the factory and sent to shops and supermarkets.

The Australian dairy industry is committed to sustainable practices – both on and off the farm. Recycling is a crucial part of the dairy industry.

Recycling milk and yoghurt containers has enormous benefits for the environment. Not only are materials diverted from landfill when recycled, but this also saves natural resources and reduces the industry's environmental impact.

For every 41 plastic bottles recycled, enough energy is saved to run a refrigerator for an hour.


Recycling plastic packaging

Once milk packaging is placed in a recycling bin, it’s taken to a materials recovery facility where the containers are separated. It is then reprocessed and chopped into small flakes, washed with recycled water and then turned into pellets that can be used in new products, like outdoor furniture, signs, bins and benches.

Recycled HDPE plastic can’t be used to make food packaging because its low melting point means bacterial contamination is possible.

Yoghurt tubs are sometimes made from polypropylene (PP) or rigid polystyrene (PS), which can also be processed into pellets for recycling.

Look for a Plastic Identification Code (the universal recycling symbol with a number in it) on the container to see what type of plastic it is. HDPE is 2, PP is 5 and PS is 6.

A product made from recycled materials uses far less energy than one made from new raw materials such as coal, iron ore, oil and trees.


Recycling cartons

Cartons use a different type of material called liquid paperboard (LPB). It’s made with a mixture of hardwood and long softwood fibres, which makes it ideal for recycling.

After it arrives at a recycling plant, it’s waterproof plastic/polyethylene coating is separated from the paper, then shredded, washed and reprocessed into pulp - ideal for making paper products.

Every tonne of LPB recycled saves 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kilowatts of electricity, 31,780 litres of water, four cubic metres of landfill and 13 trees.