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Canada uses 1.3L bags to deliver milk. Each set of 3 such bags are enclose in another bag. It results in incomprehensible volumes of waste.

I searched the internet to see why we haven't found a better alternative. The 2 main alternatives are not great.

One alternative is re-usable jugs. The problem is keeping them clean and the impossibility of assuring that the jugs haven't been mis-used for unpalatable things.

The second alternative is Tetra Pak style containers. That seems less preferable.

These, and less likely alternatives, are presented here

Every few years, my environmental crime punches me in the gut, and I look again for new developments. But the alternatives have been this bleak for many years.

Is there a venue where one can continue batting at the challenge in discussion? A succinct Q&A forum like Stack Exchange is not suitable for "storming" and evolving ideas.

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    incomprehensible? Put three empty milk bags and their overbag next to 2 empty 2L cartons and tell me which is more. Either you get your milk from the farm in glass bottles that you manage and clean, or you accept a disposable container. The bag system is far less to dispose than cartons, tetra packs, or any other rigid thing you can think of. (And the 4L returnable jugs were not reused they were recycled.) Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:46
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    And now there is a scientific study that says "Litre for litre, compared with jugs or cartons, milk bags consume only about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the energy, use about 2 per cent (compared to cartons) to 40 per cent (compared to jugs) as much water, and produce only 20 per cent to 40 per cent of the greenhouse gases." More quotes and a link at tvo.org/article/think-bagged-milk-is-weird-think-again Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 16:41
  • To brainstorm about solutions, you could try our chat room although that usually is rather quiet. Since you provide a quite a bit of information about the problem you are trying to solve and people are posting answers addressing that, I propose to rewrite this question and focus on possible solutions instead.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 7:31
  • "Ongoingly storm" What?
    – RedSonja
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 8:56
  • Exercising one's creativity here. Not being constrained by linguistic conventions. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

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For decades in the UK (and probably other countries) milk was delivered to the door by a milkman in glass bottles.

You kept the empty bottles, and left them out on the door step for the milkman to collect when he made the next delivery. The bottles would be washed and sterilised by the diary and reused.

Whilst most milk in the UK is now bought in plastic bottles from the supermarket, some areas do still have a milkman service (https://www.mcqueensdairies.co.uk/product/1-pint-semi-skimmed-glass/), delivering milk in glass bottles. It seems that a new solution isn't what's needed here, but to go back to the old one!

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It would be totally ridiculous to distribute milk in reusable bags.

Milk is about as unsustainable drink as you can make. Cows emit huge amounts of methane to atmosphere, and feeding those cows requires massive amounts of land that has resulted in destruction of nearly every non-human species on this planet. It's totally irrelevant whether or not the milk is in a reusable or recyclable container. The container is almost 0% of the total environmental effects of milk. Almost 100% of the total environmental effects of milk are due to methane and land use.

Not only that, but even if you replace milk with something better, such as oat-based drink that tries to emulate milk, it's still irrelevant whether it's in a container that's wholly or partially plastic-based. One liter of oat "milk" produces about kilogram of carbon dioxide when made. Even if it's in a container that's completely made of plastic, the container for one liter probably weighs around 50 grams at most. It's also possible to use a cardboard container that's only lined with a very thin layer of plastic to make it impermeable to liquids. Even in the worst case, container made of completely 100% plastic, it has around 4 kg/kg of CO2 footprint, so 50 gram container would cause 200 grams of CO2 emissions. Compare that to 1 kg of CO2 emissions caused by the contents of said container.

Also we can't have 100% renewable electricity production. It's mandatory to have reliable electricity production methods that allow producing electricity even when sun doesn't shine and there are no winds. It's impossible (uneconomical) to transfer electricity over long distances so the claim that it's always windy or sunny somewhere doesn't save us. Therefore, we should encourage every electricity production method that allows producing electricity in complete calm darkness.

One such electricity production method is waste-to-energy. It is not dependent on weather.

I will happily continue buying massive amounts of products in plastic-based containers, fully knowing that they will be burned to energy in the future at some point of time when it's calm and dark.

Before someone complains about CO2 emissions of burning that plastic waste, let me explain that only about 15% of electricity needs to come from sources that work in worst possible weather conditions (dark and calm), and much of that is hydropower so probably around 7.5% of the power needs to come from combusting fuels. Plastic waste has probably around 300 g / kWh CO2 emissions and 40% energy efficiency meaning 750 g / kWh of electricity produced. If only 7.5% of power comes from such waste-to-energy plants, and the rest comes from CO2-free sources, that's only 56 g / kWh. If all electricity production of this planet was only 56 g / kWh, we would effectively have no climate change.

Also it's possible to capture the CO2 emissions of waste-to-energy plants and store them and perhaps reuse later, combining with hydrogen to create artificial methane that can later be burned to energy, capturing the CO2 again, and never emitting that CO2 to the atmosphere in any part of the fully cyclical energy generation scheme.

Therefore, it's feasible to produce 0 g CO2 / kWh from waste-to-energy plants effectively.

Your plastic waste may be fully environmentally friendly after all, having no negative environmental effects.

Also it's possible to make plastic from trees. You don't need crude oil to make plastic. If you make plastic from trees, then burn it in a waste-to-energy plant, then capture the carbon dioxide, it will have negative emissions.

The only problem with plastics is that if it gets ever into oceans, it will become microplastics. If you handle plastic waste properly, that's not an issue.

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  • A very fulsome response, not really to the question, but probably more relevant to sustainability. It's a lot of new information to digest, and I'm just starting to search for background information. Not just based on environmental considerations, but also on nutritional differences of alternatives. Thanks. Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 16:56

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