What kind of container should be used for milk?
There’s a glut of recycled plastic. In some cases, plastic is going to the landfill instead of being reused.
There’s been some research into dairy products. The most common container for milk is plastic.
Some dairies have tried what’s been used in the past: glass.
“We did some research on a dairy here in Ann Arbor and we found that the bottles were being refilled at least eight times before, you know, they would either be not returned or they would break,” said Greg Keoleian, director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan.
He says glass can be a decent alternative, but there are drawbacks.
“Glass is heavy, so it takes energy to transport. The other is after the glass bottle is reused multiple times, if it breaks, you want to make sure it gets recycled and recycling rates for glass are also low.”
Paperboard cartons could be used, but recycling is also low with that material.
Keoleian says a refillable durable plastic bottle made of HDPE or polycarbonate would be light. It could really reduce energy and emissions footprints and also reduce solid waste.
But, it's unclear whether people will embrace losing the convenience of a throw away container.
The container is just one part of the complicated issue of food packaging. Keoleian says consumers have other aspects to consider. For example, milk itself has a larger environmental footprint than its container. Making sure we don’t waste milk would help even more than a better container in terms of the environment.