Walking down the dairy aisle you are faced with plenty of milk packaging options.
Glass bottles, plastic jugs, and paper cartons are all available, but what should you be putting in your cart? What is the best type of milk packaging for you, and for future generations?
Of course, we think the answer is glass. But we have the facts to back it up.
The Glass Milk Bottle
Glass is made using a combination of sand, soda ash, and limestone. These materials are not renewable, but they are plentiful. Once these materials are used to make a glass bottle, the bottle can be reused and recycled an infinite number of times.
The milk bottle industry works on the principle of rinse, and return. Glass bottles can be cleaned, sterilized and reused as many times as they are returned back to the dairy.
Dairy farms across the country – like A.B. Munroe Dairy in Rhode Island – take the process one step further, delivering their farm fresh milk right to the doors of their customers. They also pick up the empty bottles and return them to their facilities for cleaning.
A deposit fee is often charged to encourage consumers to return their milk bottles, and it works. Straus Farm Creamery from Marshall, California estimates that their bottles are returned an average of 4 to 6 times.
When a bottle is returned, far less energy is required to sterilize and refill a glass bottle then there is to make a new dairy packaging.
When a milk bottle does re-enter the recycling system, it can be melted down and re-manufactured into any number of glass products without a decrease in quality.
The Plastic Milk Jug
Plastic milk jugs seem to be a good choice.
They are extremely light, at only 4 ounces per half gallon container, they require very little energy to transport.
They can be recycled. Which sounds fantastic, except that’s when the plastic milk jug hits a snag.
Milk jugs can physically be melted down and made into a new packaging.
However, none of the milk packaging in America is made from recycled materials due to concerns about bacterial and chemical contamination. The reclaimed plastic is used to create toothbrushes, children’s toys, and flowerpots among many things.
So, yes milk jugs can be recycled, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only 29% of plastic ends up in the recycling bin. Leaving the other 71% of plastics to sit in landfills for years to come.
The Paper Milk Carton
The main advantages of a milk carton is that it is very light. In fact, it only weighs one ounce more than a plastic milk jug. They also are made from paper, which is a renewable resource.
However, the milk carton also has environmental consequences.
Milk cartons need to be made using virgin materials. Recycled paper can never be as strong as the paper straight from the tree, so new materials must constantly be used.
As well as large amounts of water, fossil fuels, and chemical bleaches which are involved in the manufacturing process.
Once the milk bottle has done its job, and bought milk into the home of the consumer, it can be recycled. Unfortunately, few areas in America recycle milk cartons, so everyday thousands of cartons are thrown into landfills.
Glass Versus Plastic Versus Paper
This is a lot of information about different types of milk packaging. So what what do you think?
Plastic milk jugs vs. cartons? Glass bottles vs. plastic?
We think it all comes down to the three R’s. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Most importantly, we need to reduce the amount of materials we are consuming. Then, we need to reuse the products we already have created. And finally, we need to recycle used products to make new ones.
Glass seems to be the clear winner of all three categories.
By returning glass bottles we are reducing the amount of new bottles that need to be made. Returning the bottles allows them to be reused many times. Then once they are recycled they can be re-manufactured without any decrease in quality.
The choice is clear. Glass milk bottles are the best choice for the environment.
Dairies all over North America offer farm fresh milk in glass bottles, and many even have an option for home milk delivery.