People of a certain age will remember the glass milk bottles, the tinfoil caps, cream rising to the top in a thick head. The early morning clink of glass as the milkman delivered his daily pints. And the different clink of empty bottles, carefully washed, rinsed and left for collection, taken back to the dairy to be washed and reused.
It’s a throwback to a simpler time perhaps when milkmen roamed the early morning streets in their lorries and carts, doing their delivery, reading the notes left out. ‘No milk today.’ ‘Two extra pints.’
Given the focus on plastics and packaging, should diaries look to going back to glass. It’s what people, the customer, all of us do with glass and plastic that is the issue.
And it’s not a straightforward one. The plastic used in the milk jars is fully recyclable so it shouldn’t end up in the ocean or landfill if consumers are environmentally conscious.
A glass bottle is the same and again if consumers are engaged and environmentally aware then it shouldn’t end up in landfill or the ocean.
If we compare the carbon footprint the glass bottle has serious drawbacks.
1. Glass is very heavy in comparison so significantly more expensive to transport.
2. This weight also an issue in the return journey if reusing.
3. To wash and sterilise the glass takes significant energy.
4. The energy in glass production compared to plastic is also significant.
5. Plastic bottles can be produced on-site so reducing transport costs. Glass can’t and again it’s weight drives up its ‘footprint’ in its journey to dairy.
Plastic isn’t the problem it’s what people do when it’s empty. Making it of glass doesn’t cure this problem just adds to downstream costs.