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Milk caps: Why supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose are ditching coloured lids?

Milk bottles with transparent lids have appeared on supermarket shelves in the past few months.

Consumers may be accustomed to seeing refrigerators filled with blue, green and red capped bottles to distinguish between whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk.

But this is about to change as supermarkets and dairy giants introduce white and clear lids to make packaging more sustainable.

The move is being tested by retailers including Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose, with some opting to introduce white or sheer tops permanently.

But some buyers say it’s harder to tell milk types apart by the white or clear lid, even though the colored labels have survived.

Some supermarkets are refusing milk with a colored lid.iStock

Why is this being done?

The new clear caps are easier to recycle than the colored caps.

By using white or clear lids, businesses and consumers can reduce color contamination in the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) stream.

One of the easiest plastic polymers to recycle, HDPE is in high demand as industries work to become less dependent on virgin plastic.

Müller Milk & Ingredients has begun changing its colored milk bottle caps to clear ones and plans to completely transform its range by summer 2023.

The firm, which buys one-fifth of the milk produced on British farms, conducted surveys that showed that eight out of ten buyers would prefer bottles with clear lids to colored ones if it could increase its recyclability.

CEO Rob Hutchison said: “Our fresh milk bottles already contain up to 30% recycled material, but as demand still far exceeds supply, this move will increase availability.

“With access to more, we can partner with our customers to further increase that.

“After a number of successful trials that have proven that buyers do support the move to transparent restrictions, we are now focused on getting full rollout by next summer.”

Supermarket chains are following suit to make packaging more sustainable.

Aldi’s director of plastics and packaging, Richard Gorman, said: “By testing clear milk caps, we are making it easier for our milk bottles to be recycled so they can be turned back into new packaging.”

Scott Davey, Senior Purchasing Director at Lidl, added: “We remain committed to supporting our customers by helping them make smarter buying decisions every day.

“Customer feedback during the trial period has been overwhelmingly positive and we are thrilled to make this change permanent across all Lidl stores.

Lidl is phasing out colored milk capsiStock

“In addition, this move will help us achieve our goal of making more of the plastic we use round and recyclable over and over again.”

The Co-op also announced in November that it would phase out colored bottle caps and expects to remove more than 150 tons of colored plastic from HDPE streams per year.

Retailer milk buyer Adam Williams said: “There will be a change in how consumers see milk bottle caps: the new caps are easier to process and store in the food industry than their non-ferrous counterparts.

“The availability of food grade recycled plastic is limited and that is a problem. It is important that packaging is seen as a valuable resource.”

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