The Environmental Impact of Delivering Milk in Glass Bottles

Delivering Milk in Glass Bottles or Recyclable Packaging

Delivering MilkFrom time to time we hear nostalgic regrets about the demise of delivering milk in the lowly glass milk bottle.

The clink of the glass in the early morning, the washing of the bottles and putting them outside the door as the last daily action before retiring for the night.

A daily ritual that has been, and is again being promoted as the ultimate in environmentally friendly consumption.

Or is it?

The following numbers relate to large movements of milk using trucks capable of a 24 tonne payload.

To move 23,500 litres of milk using Tetra Pac Cartons or plastic bottles means transporting a total of  24 tonnes. 23.5 tonnes of outward payload and  500kg of Tetrapak packaging, . This packaging can be recycled in our green recycling bins

To deliver 23,500 litres of milk using glass bottles, each bottle weighing 0.35kg and containing  500ml (0.88 pint), would mean an outward payload of 49,950kg (49.9t) and then a return payload of 16,450kg (16.5t) of empty glass.

We now need two trucks to do the delivery (if we are limited to 24 tonnes per truck, we can’t deliver all the milk)  To simplify the calculation let’s just send an extra 24 tonne truck along with the delivery and then have it collect the empty glass for return to the refilling plant.

The above of course only gets the milk to and from the distribution warehouse or supermarket, the extra 16.5 tonnes of glass then has to be collected by the consumer or transported in smaller lots by your friendly milkman delivering milk to the end user and back again, once the milk has been consumed

When the glass is returned to the refilling plant, it must first be sent to a washing and testing line to be examined for contaminants or cracks and then transported to the filling lines.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s us assume that the milk bottle moves four times for each usage. So for each half litre of milk consumed we move 1.4 kg of glass. (0.35kg per bottle X four movements.)

Delivering milk in glassIf each person in Ireland consumed one bottle of milk per day there would be a need to transport 6580 tonnes of glass about the place every day which would require in the region of an extra 140 large articulated trucks for the trunking movements and a myriad of smaller trucks and vans bringing the milk to individual consumers.

To transport 2.35 million litres of milk in cartons or plastic requires about 59 tonnes of recyclable packaging. Even if all of this packaging was landfilled or incinerated the environmental impact is dramatically lower than using glass

Apart from the economic cost of moving all this extra weight around, washing and cleaning of the bottles and recycling of broken glass, the environmental consequences moving this amount of glass around the place surely requires that the lowly milk bottle be left consigned to nostalgia and the happy times when ignorance was bliss

Back-up numbers
Weight of  1 milk bottle =                             0.35 kg
Weight of Plastic or Tetra Pak carton=        0.025kg
Weight of one litre of milk=                         1kg    
Population of Ireland 2016,                         4.7 million       

The calculations above are designed to present a concept and may not be scientifically accurate to the nearest litre or kg.


Here at Electronic Recycling we do not recycle glass but we do recycling anything with a plug or a battery including the total destruction of data media in compliance with the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which will come into force on May 25th this year (2018)

Posted in: Environment

MEPs vote to boost recycling, cut landfill targets and curb food waste.

EU Landfill TargetsOn March 14th 2017, MEPs at the European Parliament approved the Simona Bonafè MEP led EU Environment Committee report.

In a clear signal to both the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament has confirmed the increased ambition of the Environment Committee on four legislative proposals on waste, deciding to restore the ambitious recycling and landfill targets in line with what the Commission had originally proposed in 2014 and confirming their proposals from January this year

The share of waste to be recycled should be raised to 70% by 2030, from 44% today, while landfill targets, which have a big environmental impact, should be limited to 5%, said Environment Committee MEPs on Tuesday, as they amended the draft EU “waste package” legislation. They also advocate a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030.

Statistics from 2014 suggest that 44% of all municipal waste in the EU is recycled or composted. This compares to just 31% in 2004, and by 2020 EU member states should be recycling or composting over 50% of waste.

Commenting Simona Bonafè MEP said,  “The ENVI committee has showed that it believes in the transition towards a circular economy. “There will no longer be the possibility for Member States with the lowest recycling rates to have a ‘blanket’ derogation. They will be able to request a derogation, but it will be subject to specific conditions”

Waste and packaging waste By 2030, at least 70% by weight of so-called municipal waste (from households and businesses) should be recycled or prepared for re-use, (i.e. checked, cleaned or repaired), say MEPs. The European Commission proposed 65%.

For packaging materials, such as paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood, MEPs propose an 80% target for 2030, with interim 2025 targets for each material.

Landfill Targets The draft law limits the share of municipal waste to be landfilled to 10% by 2030. MEPs propose tightening this to 5%, albeit with a possible five-year extension, under certain conditions, for member states which landfilled more than 65% of their municipal waste in 2013. EU countries such as Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Malta and Romania still landfill more than three quarters of their municipal waste.

Food waste Food waste in the EU is estimated at some 89 million tonnes, or 180 kg per capita per year. MEPs advocate an EU food waste reduction target of 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared to 2014. They also propose a similar target for marine litter.

Some background numbers In 2014, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent virtually no municipal waste to landfill, whereas Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia and Malta still landfill more than three quarters of their municipal waste.

Although waste management in the EU has improved considerably in recent decades, almost a third of municipal waste is still landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted, with wide variations between member states.

Improving waste management could deliver benefits for the environment, climate, human health and the economy. As part of a shift in EU policy towards a circular economy, the European Commission made four legislative proposals introducing new waste-management targets regarding reuse, recycling and landfilling.

The proposals also strengthen EU provisions on waste prevention and extended producer responsibility, and streamline definitions, reporting obligations and calculation methods for targets.

Source: European Parliament News

Posted in: Environment, News