Achieving circular economy for milk powder packaging through recycling approach


Dedicated to bringing health through food to as many people as possible, Danone is a leading global food & beverage company built on three businesses: Essential Dairy and Plant-Based Products, Waters, Specialized Nutrition.

Specialized Nutrition comprises Early Life Nutrition (ELN) and Advanced Medical Nutrition (AMN). These two businesses represent a portfolio of science-based nutritional solutions designed to positively impact health through food for people who need it most, and at the most critical times of their lives, from preterm infants to old age.

Early Life Nutrition (ELN) is a thriving business at Danone. The driving force behind this success is our portfolio of science-based products that, alongside parent education, including breastfeeding support, provide optimal nutritional solutions for infants and young children. Advanced Medical Nutrition (AMN) focuses on providing innovative solutions in paediatric nutrition (including food allergies and faltering growth) as well as adult nutrition (addressing age-related frailty and malnutrition due to disease).

Among its many businesses, Danone commercializes infant milk formula under different brands and price tiers, to provide nutritional solutions for infant and young children (up to 6y old). Milk powder is a popular way to provide the much-needed nutrition to infants and toddlers and are crucial especially in the early stages of a child’s life. Baby milk powder is what we like to focus on for our packaging problem statements under the sustainability challenge and for our Eastern markets (India, Indonesia, South East Asia).

The challenge faced is coming from the linear model the packaging for baby milk powder is into nowadays. Solving the problem (ie turning from linear to circular model) creates a huge opportunity with positive impact to the planet, to the society and to the economy. This step-change will come from our ability to transform up to 4,000 tons of packaging waste (total across the 3 geographies) into value creation solutions and model, embedded into local system and scalable. 

Studies have shown in Asian countries, less than 50% of the population has accessed to the waste recycling infrastructure due to poor waste collection and sorting processes. One of the critical reasons for the absence of a well-monitored waste management infrastructure in some Asian countries is the lack of funding for upgrading the waste management set-ups. Furthermore, end consumer packaging waste collection behavior in these countries are very much bounded by incentives provided by waste collectors for only selective packaging waste materials.  Actually, end consumers in these countries are very selective in repurposing or reusing the used packaging. Hence it seems critical to consider any type of stakeholders that will enable successful waste management, as well as how to trigger a change of behavior at consumer level.

Moreover, end consumers are increasingly becoming more environmentally conscious and prefer sustainability-marketed product. With added pressure from governmental regulations related to environmental sustainability, many FMCG companies have pledged their commitment at global forums1 to adopt more sustainable practices including relooking at the product packaging of their consumer products from 2020 and below. Hence any opportunities to engage with consumer, governmental and non-governmental bodies in creating new business model for value creation locally while contributing to sustainability will be a win-win situation for these companies.

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The Innovators should suggest a feasible and economical plan to facilitate collection of the waste packaging from home consumers

Type of material:

  • The flexible material (‘pouch’) contains the milk powder, and protects the product from humidity, oxygen, light and any contamination during the whole shelf life (18 months average)
  • The pouch can be sold in a box and unprinted (picture number 1) or as a standalone and printed (picture number 2). See attachment under document section.
  • The new Business Model should focus on encouraging the re-cycling at our users’ end (eg can be through a creative incentivization model and / or the design of the packaging/its user experience that trigger a behavior change)
  • Our emphasis in design innovation is to enable the business model innovation we are looking (for e.g. collecting >> cleaning >> sorting >> new end product) by creating value of the new end product
  • The new Business Model should enable the start circularity (ie keep the material re-used or re-purposed into the economy)
  • Quality and Food Safety is utmost importance if repurposed or reused back into Danone’s early-life nutrition packaging value-chain
  • The new Business Model should not have any negative impact to the Planet (GHG emission, water, waste)
  • The solution should be locally relevant and create value for the local community
  • The solution should be integrated into local network of stakeholders required for the success of the new Business Model (brand owner, retailers, converters, government, NGO and etc.)

Commercial readiness:

  • At least some basic concept principles developed. More mature, closer to commercial application preferred.
  • The innovators have the knowledge and capability to deeply research and perform initial testing of new business model

Danone will be keen to test-bed the solution and subsequently implement the solution in the markets that it serves. New Business Model owners should be open to work closely with the company to test the solution and further develop it to meet the said requirements.

Desired Outcome

  • Danone would like to seek creative and innovation ideas through design and business model innovation to encourage the re-cycling of the used flexible packaging (and open to consider the paper box and scoop within).
  • This is to prolong its usefulness and to minimize the disposal of the used packaging material into traditional municipal waste management system thereby achieving a higher re-cycling rate for the used packaging.
  • Creative solution should involve a new business model suggestion (such as collection, cleaning, return to close the circular economy loop etc) and/or new design. Ideas should enable behaviour change in consumers to enable the collection (buy-in/consumer engagement).
  • Danone is open to consider make some changes to its current packaging design.

Development Timeframe

  • We aim to select and develop a Proof-of-Concept in Q1 2021 that can be tested on a small scale in Q2-Q3 2021 for a decision on scale-up conditions in Q4 2021.
  • For blue-sky ideas, we are open to exploring over a longer time horizon for development, beyond 2021.



For Further Enquiries



Design Think-Tank Challenge



Proposal submissions are open from 25 Nov 2020 10:00AM to 28 Feb 2021 12:00AM