An environmental comparison of milk containers
Updated: Mar 23
We aim to provide our customers with up-to-date research so they know all their options and can make informed decisions for yourself and your family - Samantha Stolworthy
Today we are comparing the amount of greenhouse gasses used to create each type of milk package. We are relying on figures presented in the article, "What's the Most Eco-Friendly Milk Container?" (Eating Well, 2019) and analyzing 5 types of packaging: Glass, Disposable Plastic, Returnable Plastic, Tetrapak and Cardboard.
Quantity of greenhouse gas emissions required for each packaging type per quart of milk:
Cardboard -3150 grams
Disposable Plastic - 2880 grams
Glass - 2090 grams
Returnable plastic - 5760 grams
Tetrapak - 1340 grams
NOTE: These values are considered an approximate based on averages.
We choose to bottle in disposable plastic - as listed above has the initial highest amount of energy needed to create. This means our bottles - per quart are the worst contributor for greenhouse gases - EXCEPT for one huge reason why they actually contribute the least greenhouse gases. These bottles are typically reused over 150 times!!! Which means for quantity of greenhouses gasses to produce a bottle, their lifespan greatly reduces future emissions. (5760 grams for 1 bottle/150 uses = 38.4 grams per use)
Every other type of packing, except glass and returnable plastic, the emissions statistics occur for a single use out of the container - creating emissions with every bottle produced (ex. disposable plastic 2880 grams x 150 bottles = 432,000 grams per 150 bottles). Glass bottles typically have an average of 6 refills out of each life cycle before breakage or damage. When reuse it taken into consideration the input for glass is adjusted to 350 grams per use - substantially less than any non-reusable packaging, but not less than reusable plastic.
Reusable plastic really shines when the amount of times reused is taken into consideration (our bottles are extremely difficult to break or damage and can be used on average of 150 times); with 150 uses the greenhouse gasses drop to around 20 grams of greenhouse used for each use. Since reusable plastic only contains two times the amount of plastic compared with a disposable bottle - it results in less than 1.3% of the total plastic mass ending up in recycling or in the landfill when reuse is taken into account.
It is important when researching the environmental impact of packing to consider the reuse rates over the lifetime of the packaging. We believe for the environment, for safety and for convenience returnable plastic (BPA free) with the highest reuse rate is far superior to any other type of container.
Andrew & Samantha Stolworthy
Co-Owners - Wasatch Milk