(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.

2 Answers 2


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.


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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.