Are glass milk bottles making a comeback in the UK?

What happened to the days where the so-called “milkman” would come by your house and drop off glass bottles of milk? Well, single-use plastics and cheaper packaging came around and eliminated the demand for recyclable glass bottles. Soon enough, disposable milk packaging became the norm. But although the days of glass-bottled milk have been long gone, it seems they’re making a bit of a comeback in the UK.

In Scotland, a farmer by the name of Bryce Cunningham has raised more than £10,000 from a crowdfunding campaign and used the money to replace single-use plastic cartons with 32,000 glass bottles which he is able to wash and reuse. The milk from Bryce’s 55-cow herd, along with milk from two other organic farms that supply him, goes out to around 8–10,000 people across Scotland. Cunningham isn’t the only one committing to glass bottles, but his farm is the first to climate single-use plastics at every stage of the milk production.

The dairy industry has committed to eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic by 2025, making glass a more attractive option than ever. But while switching over to glass reduces potential plastic waste, the benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions depend on the number of times the bottles are re-used and whether the milk is sourced locally.

The dairy company Arla claims that plastic milk bottles have lower total carbon emissions than glass, with reduced transport emissions per bottle because they can be packed more tightly together. But if used more than 20 times, glass bottles have a better carbon footprint than partly recycled plastics, according to one study.

Cunningham’s farm shows it’s entirely possible for glass bottles to be re-used that many times; the glass bottles he bought last year have already been re-used 52 times.

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