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More Environmentally Friendly to Use Glass Milk Bottles?

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 20 May 2021 | comments*Discuss
Recycling Reuse Recycle Environment

We live in a throw away society where much of our household waste consists of plastic, cardboard and paper. So much of this material needs to be recycled and there are financial considerations as well as environmental considerations to think of when we fill our bins before collection day.

Why Not Glass?

Many companies no longer use glass containers simply because of the expense. It has become much cheaper and much more production orientated to produce cartons, containers and other receptacles from plastic that glass has fallen by the way side as a more expensive option.

In days gone by the number of items that were sold in glass containers were many but as time has passed and the emphasis has shifted towards space while shipping, the environment and – as always – money – the number of glass items has substantially dropped.

Do You Remember Glass Milk Bottles?

If you are over the age of 25 then you probably remember having your milk delivered to your door in pint glass bottles. Many people remember this with a sentimental fondness, the clink of the bottles and the washing and leaving out of the empties for collection the next night. Sadly however many dairies have now gone out of business and those that still exist find it difficult to compete with larger supermarket chains and in order to do so have to use plastic containers or cartons as a means of keeping costs down.

There are a few dairies in the United Kingdom who still use glass milk bottles and in the last few years the numbers have begun to increase again however there are still a great many people purchasing their milk from supermarkets – especially as they are now open 24 hours a day.

Why Use Glass Bottles Instead of Plastic?

The big advantage to using glass milk bottles instead of plastic or carton containers is the fact that the bottles can be reused almost instantaneously. Those dairies that have embarked on the schemes of using glass bottles again ask that those people using them operate a ‘rinse and return policy’.

Rinse and return is exactly what it sounds like; once you have finished with your milk bottles you rinse them out and leave them for the milkman to collect when he next delivers your milk.

The bottles are then returned to the dairy where they are sterilised in hot water, refilled, recapped and made ready for delivery again.

This process is much faster than having to throw old plastic or carton containers into your recycling and then waiting for it to be collected.

Once your recycling has been taken away it has to be sorted and then shipped off to recycling plants that deal with plastic, carton, paper and card board etc. This in itself can be a very time consuming process and also one which has an effect on the environment if you consider how much fuel is used transporting the materials and how much energy is used recycling them.

Rinse and Return

If you have a milkman in your area that delivers milk direct to your door why not ask him if he operates a rinse and return policy. If he does then it may be worth paying that little bit extra to have your milk delivered in bottles which can be used and reused much more quickly than they would if they were plastic.

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[Add a Comment]
Why is it more expensive to wash and refillbottles for milk than using a new carton which is thrown out and hopefully recycled?
Dakey - 20-May-21 @ 8:44 PM
I would like to get free range milk in glass bottles, is this possible?
Sue - 4-May-21 @ 10:08 PM
Do you have recycling experts to talk to? As I am creating new vegan skin care brand and the packaging it’s going to be very important to me as recycling can be quite confusing. As I’ve heard black plastic recyclable bottles are in fact very hard to recycle because of the high pigment in the plastic, so some advice would be wonderful regards the best plastic glass color to put these products in
Mich - 8-Jul-20 @ 4:56 PM
We have recently started having our milk delivered in glass bottles by a local dairy. At present there are about a dozen neighbours doing this already. Our local veg shop is 96% plastic free and also sells glass bottled milk. I would imagine that the cost of collecting our recycling with plastic bottles and all the transportation by the Council. Then costs of sorting in labour and energy to transport different items to various recycling establishments creates a far bigger footprint than our milkman bringing full bottles and taking them away to use again and again,Maybe I’m missing something here.
Speedwatch - 5-Oct-19 @ 7:05 PM
As Rick asked above. I’m interested to know what the carbon footprint of each choice is. Taking into account, for example, how many times on average a glass bottle is actually reused and how the more efficient use of space and lighter packaging of plastic impact transportation emissions. As far as I’m aware, glass bottles of milk are only available by the pint and as we use several pints a week, buying a single larger plastic container must have an impact on the maths of the whole conundrum.
Laura - 28-Aug-19 @ 7:32 PM
What's the overall impact on the environment in terms of its Carbon Footprint of a glass bottle from creation to final use as opposed to the same for its Plastic alternative?
Rick - 29-Jul-19 @ 2:34 PM
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