Machinery : Special Purpose : Beverage
Krones offers lines for the beverage industry and food producers: process technology, filling technology, packaging machines, all the way through to IT solutions.
What exactly renders a returnable glass bottle for milk sustainable?
The Berchtesgadener Land dairy has been awarded the Reusable Systems Innovation Prize of the German environmental association Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg (SIM; Foundation for Reusable Systems) for its new Krones glass line. A welcome opportunity for us to take a look at the factors influencing the sustainability of packaging.
The glass bottle is the most commonly used returnable packaging for milk and practically the only one that is taken back. Consumers regard it as a sustainable container of a superior nature that protects top-quality fresh milk. And it has recently been making a comeback: In 2019, sales of milk in returnable glass bottles in Germany were up by about 30 per cent over the preceding year. But the overall reuse quota for containers of milk-based beverages, at about 1.3 per cent, is very low. That was not always the case: In 2015, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu) found that the proportion of returnable glass bottles for fresh milk had fallen by a good 90 per cent between 1995 and 2005. Demand for milk in returnable glass is now rising again. Berchtesgadener Land felt the full effect of this uptrend, which pushed the dairy’s old line to the limits of its capacity. With its new Krones filling line, the cooperative has doubled the output to 12,000 bottles per hour and is again able to respond in full to the demand of milk and cream fans.
Fresh milk and cream: increasing capacities for returnable bottles
Fresh milk produced using traditional methods is the cream of the crop. The Berchtesgadener Land dairy fills this precious commodity in glass bottles. To meet the soaring demand for milk in returnable bottles, the cooperative has replaced its returnable-glass line, which fills organic and mountain farmers’ milk and cream.
The most important requirement for the new line was quality, both in regard to the machines and systems and the products made on them. “Production lines for traditional fresh milk must always give reliable service. We don’t have time for long maintenance routines,” emphasises Althammer. The milk is delivered to the dairy every day and must be dispatched fast, in order to guarantee retailers a minimum shelf life in the cold chain of eight days. What’s more, complying with stringent cleanliness standards in production is the top priority for filling this unsterilised milk. Germs carried in from outside result in faster milk spoilage, meaning the required shelf life would then not be met. When filling into returnable bottles, moreover, contaminated empties must not be allowed to enter the filling zone. That entails stringent requirements for the bottle washer, the filler and overall hygiene standards for the line.
The beverage sector moving towards sustainable factories
Nevertheless, sustainability consultancy is not tied to Krones products, as Bernd Rothmeier explains: “In the early phases of project development in particular, it is important to focus on identifying the optimum solution, irrespective of possible vendors. We will always consider any and all innovative technologies available on the market.” The department offers comprehensive sustainability consultancy as a separate service for the beverage, dairy and plastics-recycling industries.