Is the dairy industry really single-use plastic free?

With the growing awareness about the ill-effects of single-use plastics, the consumer industries, governments and environmental conservation agencies are trying hard to ban the use of plastic, at least the single-use kind. Often in this movement, we get to hear about the organic dairy farms going plastic-free but should we just accept this fact at its face value? To what extent is the dairy industry really single-use plastic free?

Single-use plastic in dairy product packaging

A lot of organic dairy farms are switching to glass bottles as opposed to previously used single-use plastic packaging. While this is a positive step towards promoting a circular economy and conserving the planet, this is just the tip of the iceberg. When shopping for dairy products, we often find cheese wrapped in plastic films, yogurt sold in plastic cups and butter packaged in plastic boxes too. It doesn’t stop there as even the non-dairy products like tofu get packaged in single-use plastic.

Single-use plastic in dairy input

It is not just the dairy products generated at the end of the production line that often find themselves packaged in single-use plastic to maximize their shelf lives. The dairy inputs like animal fodder also are packaged and transported with single-use plastic silage wraps.

Plastic-free packaging alternatives

By this time, it is becoming a common practice to either sell milk in biodegradable cardboard tetra packs or glass bottles. Just like milk, dairy cream can also be packaged in glass bottles. As for the yogurt, it can either be sold in clay pots or small glass jars. For cheese wraps, instead of cling-films, bio-degradable bee’s wax paper should be used. Care needs to be taken that the paper is coated with bees wax and not petroleum-based paraffin wax which would otherwise make it non-biodegradable. The same paper can potentially be used to transport the butter from the Deli to your home after which you can transfer it to a dish of your choice and keep refrigerated. For those who know the health benefits of clarified butter a.k.a. ghee, the challenge is easily addressed by storing ghee in glass jars. And just like that, most of the dairy products can be packaged without relying on single-use plastic.

Plastic-free alternatives for dairy input

It is possible to switch to bio-degradable silage wraps like bale wraps that is even edible. Alternatively, using innovative farming techniques like hydroponics, nutrient rich barley fodder can be grown on-site, all year around completely doing away with the need for silage wraps and hence are an economical solution to tackling harsh weather. Fodder Solutions is a global leader in this approach and is already reaping the benefits.

Now, it is a matter of time before the leaders in the Dairy industry take note of these challenges and invest in alternative solutions like those discussed here to actually make the dairy-industry plastic-free and truly “organic”.

Published by Kshitij Tiwari

Roboticist, martial artist, solo traveler, environmentalist

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