Female worker in dairy milk processing line


Australian dairy is very mindful of our stewardship role and the need to reduce our waste from farm to manufacturing and beyond.

The Australian Government’s commitment to make all packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 has increased the urgency of addressing the issue of waste. 

The 2025 National Packaging Targets

Ref: Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, Our Packaging Future, April 2020. 


On farm

Dairy farms use 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes of plastic annually on silage bales and covers for silage pits to preserve cut grass for animal feed. Around 5% of this plastic waste is currently recycled.

The dairy industry has set a target to recycle 100% of plastic silage wrap waste on farms by 2030 and this received a big boost in November 2020, with the award of a $965,400 grant from the Commonwealth Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

The funding will enable the rollout of a collection and recycling system for farm plastics across Australian dairy regions and seek to minimise the environmental impact of this waste product over the next decade. 


Dairy processors typically produce a variety of waste types. These include packaging waste such as cardboard, paper, cartons and plastic; organic wastes such as sludge and reject product; and office waste.

Current and future state (all industries)

As shown in the figure below, of the 5.5 million tonnes of packaging placed on the market in 2017-18:

  • 4.8 million tonnes is recyclable
  • 3.3 million tonnes are collected for recycling
  • 2.7 million tonnes is recycled into products

Ref: Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, Our Packaging Future, April 2020. 

These figures highlight the significant gap between the percentage of packaging that is ‘recyclable’ through current systems (88%) and the percentage that is actually collected, sorted and reprocessed back into usable products (49%). Meaning the remainder is not being recycled and is, instead, ending up in either landfill, or as litter on land and in our oceans.

Dairy Australia is working with stakeholders to address this issue in the dairy value chain in terms of reducing the losses in the packaging recovery systems and providing more circular, value-add outcomes for dairy packaging waste.


The Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) partners with government and industry to reduce the harmful impact of packaging on the Australian environment. Member organisations agree to shared commitments and joint responsibilities to work collaboratively to achieve sustainable packaging outcomes. Currently nine dairy companies are participating in the Australian Packaging Covenant - Bega, Brownes, Bulla, Chobani, Fonterra, Lactalis, Lion, Nestlé and Saputo.

Learn more about APCO here as well as the vision for Australia's packaging future, a future that recognises our planet has finite resources to meet our ever increasing consumption.

Case studies

Unique sustainable packaging solution
Bannister Downs Dairy have stepped up to the challenge and chosen packaging that's at the forefront of environmentally sustainable design. Read more about how they're using this unique packaging from Sweden that saves on space, energy and transport.

A return to traditional glass milk bottles
Embracing glass over plastic milk bottles provides a unique selling point for Schulz Organic Dairy, not to mention minimising waste. Read their story here and find out where you can purchase their products here.

Food waste

Stakeholders expect the dairy industry to be accountable for food loss and food waste from farm to manufacturing, partly responsible for food waste post-manufacturing, and involved in efforts to reduce the amount of food wasted by consumers. In response, the industry has accepted it needs to be actively involved in work to halve food waste by 2030 – a goal set by the Australian Government and the National Farmers Federation – and has started detailed investigations into food loss and waste at key dairy manufacturing sites.

Sustainability across the Australian dairy industry

Read the latest Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Report to see how we're making progress against all our goals and targets.