Food & Drink,  Recycling & Re-use

Greener packaging for yoghurts and ice-cream: My top pick

Have you ever thought about whether yoghurt pots and ice-cream tubs are recyclable? Surely they’re all just straightforward plastic or cardboard, right?

Shockingly, although they may look like recyclable materials at first glance, huge amounts of this packaging is made of unrecyclable polystyrene or composite materials.

Beware of brands that have no recycling information

Another issue is that many popular brands don’t label products properly or at all. This makes finding a planet-friendlier choice a challenge.

If you choose dairy-free, have you ever looked at Alpro’s packaging? I used to love their dessert pots. But there’s no information anywhere (on or offline) about what the pots are made of and whether they can be recycled or not.

Having contacted Alpro to ask, they confirmed the pots are NOT recyclable.

When asked if they had any plans to change this, Alpro said: “This is something we are looking at changing at the moment. Our target is by 2025 all of our products will be able to be recycled and we will have zero impact emissions.” 

At least they are doing something about it but four years is a very long wait.

Many dairy brands don’t fare much better, for example, Müller’s yoghurt pots are made of unrecyclable polystyrene. This interesting article by Which? highlights the issue and mentions Müller and a few other offenders.

Like Alpro, Müller say they plan to change their packaging by 2025. Let’s hope that really happens.

Ice cream bugbear

Now, on to finding eco-friendly ice-cream packaging. What a quest that is.

Häagen-Dazs ice cream still comes in unrecyclable packaging that has to be binned. Again, they cite 2025 as the magical date for change.

Last Summer I noticed a local (Somerset) brand called Brickells which looks really nice and delivers nationwide in the UK. The packaging is marketed as compostable. How exciting, you might think! But when I contacted the brand to find out more, they confirmed that the cartons and lids can only be composted in a commercial facility, not yet at home.

Brickells told me they are planning to trial a system where customers can return packaging for re-use. This would be great. So Brickells are one to watch.

A great eco-friendly option for dairy yoghurts and ice cream

Okay, so on to the better news (just for dairy eaters, for now though).

Well-known organic UK dairy, Yeo Valley, have made great strides in making their packaging greener. All their yoghurt, kefir and cream pots are made of Plastic 1 (PET) which is fully recyclable kerbside. In recent months, they’ve gone further by using recycled PET (RPET) as well and their plan is to use 100% RPET where plastics are used.

Now, although the pots themselves are recyclable kerbside, the products have film lids which aren’t. But this is where Yeo Valley have really excelled. They’ve introduced a take-back scheme in partnership with Enval, a recycling business.

The take-back scheme was set up to focus on Yeo Valley’s baby and kids’ yoghurts, Little Yeos, which come in bendy pouches (not collected kerbside). But luckily, the Enval scheme also accepts film lid packaging from all other Yeo Valley products.

So, instead of binning the film lids, all you need to do is contact Yeo Valley to request an Enval recycling envelope. Then just wash and save the lids after use.

When I requested my envelope, Yeo Valley had run out of Enval ones but they sent me an alternative pre-paid envelope with a nice letter:

Each freepost envelope can hold 13 Little Yeo pouches. The equivalent of one Little Yeo pouch is 5 film lids. So that means you can save and send a whopping 65 lids each time. Or you can mix and match Little Yeo pouches and lids up to the limit.

Yeo Valley have also cracked the ice cream packaging issue too. Their ice cream tubs and lids are made of cardboard without plastic lining so can be rinsed, dried and recycled kerbside. The plastic film lid coverings from the ice cream can also be included in the Enval envelope. As can lids from the kefir and cream range.

For more info about Yeo Valley’s packaging, see here.

What do Enval do with the returned packaging?

Enval are a bit like TerraCycle. They’ll ensure returned packaging is melted down and the materials separated for re-use so they will become part of a circular system. 

For more information about the Yeo Valley partnership with Enval, see here.

What about Yeo Valley’s wider eco-credentials?

Although they are a dairy, Yeo Valley are doing loads to ensure their business is sustainable.

All their cows are pasture-fed and free range. They are milked twice a day and have weekly daytime vet visits. You can even visit the cows by joining a Farm to Fridge day in the beautiful North Somerset countryside. For more general info about Yeo Valley’s cows, see here.

Other things Yeo Valley are doing to be sustainable include generating their own renewable energy from an acre of solar panels on their cowsheds’ roofs. And as organic farms, they are using processes and methods that are lower in greenhouse gas emissions and protect soil health.

Yeo Valley invite people to get in touch if they have any questions that aren’t covered on the website. This transparency is also really encouraging.

Will I have to compromise on taste to go greener?

Definitely not! I’m not going to say too much about the taste of the Yeo Valley products here (to avoid sounding like an ad) but if you haven’t tried them yet, they’re so good.

Yoghurt-wise, I’m all about plain but there are lots of nice flavours if you prefer something sweeter. For ice-cream, I highly recommend the salted caramel flavour. Closely followed by the mint choc chip. The strawberry frozen kefir is also great.

A little extra on the side

Have you heard of Yeokens? Yeo Valley’s reward scheme. It’s been around for a while but I must confess I never really paid it much attention until now. But now it’s my dairy supplier of choice, I’m going to have a go. 

You’ll find Yeoken codes on the film lids that go in the Enval envelope so be sure to check them out before recycling. You can use them for lots of treats and rewards. Or donate them to one of Yeo Valley’s nominated charities which change every quarter. Current charities are:

The Henfield Haven
Baby Bank Network
Cumbria Action for Sustainability 

The one with the most Yeokens donated will receive £1,500 from Yeo Valley with the other two charities receiving £1,000 each. Further details are here.

So, if you’re looking to make a switch to greener packaging for yoghurts, desserts and ice-cream, Yeo Valley is a good bet. And if you already buy their products, why not get involved in the Enval collection scheme?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you know of any non-dairy yoghurt or dessert options with eco-friendly packaging, please do share in the comments below.

Yeo Valley range, available from most UK supermarkets online and offline. Single yoghurt pots (150g) from 55p, larger pots (450g) from £1.55, 4-packs (120g each) from £1.85. Ice cream (500g) from £4.00.

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