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(A question with looking for answers from a UK perspective, preferably)

Does anyone have any pointers to, or have the knowledge to answer, the question of the larger-scale environmental arguments weighing the balance between the classic home delivery by milkmen of milk in glass bottles, vs. the purchase of milk in supermarkets in plastic bottles?

I realise there are multiple issues here in terms of weight of packaging, re-use/recyclability, fuel/CO2 costs, deterioration of plastic in recycling and the impact of plastic waste in oceans etc.

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The two options are not exclusive. We have supermarkets in Vancouver that sell milk in glass bottles.

Tradeoffs: Glass is cheaper if you have the infra-structure in place. * You have the crates to move filled bottles around * Trucks move between dairy and store, with no holding point between. * The diary has the automatic washing equipment. * The transport distance isn't huge.

Disposable containers make more sense: * Haulage distances are large (takes less room) * Not a direct connection between the bottling plant and the store * Disposing of used containers in landfill is cheap, or there is an efficient recycling program in effect.

If you can get the industry to standardize on a single bottle of each size, then glass gets points.

Getting this established is difficult. You need a dairy that is large enough to supply a reasonable chain of stores to get the volume you need.


Here, plastic milk containers run about 30 cents more (~10%) than cardboard. Not sure why people still buy plastic.


In Alberta for decades we had a standard size 12 oz beer bottle, called the 'stubby' Every brewery used it, and on the average a bottle made 6 round trips before being lost or broken.

They stopped making this a requirement, and there are now many different beer bottles -- too many to sort effectively. Bottles are broken for cullet and made into new bottles, a process only slighly cheaper than starting from sand and lime.

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The most sustainable method I have seen. Was in S.America. Were you went to the store with your container. Bought your milk from there 15 gallon carton. You then took it home & heated it as it was raw milk. Something on that line would probably work. If improved.

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