Today's been a day in the kitchen. We've been turning all those lovely Riverford organic ingredients into delicious meals for the next few weeks. A huge vat of bolognese sauce, a Thai chicken curry and a slow cooker full of beef and bean stew. They're all ready to be put into the freezer and then we can eat them whenever we like! I wonder if we'll even use the cooker this week.
We had to buy a few extra ingredients and while we were at the shops I was reminded of a green quandary that I've been mulling over for months. What's the most eco-friendly container for milk?
I think the obvious (and probably right!) answer is glass bottles, unless you can get it straight from the dairy to your cup which is tricky for most of us. Glass can be recycled efficiently and isn't a petroleum based product like plastic. In fact glass milk bottles are very often superheated to clean them and reused the next day, which is even better than recycling. But glass bottles aren't often sold in shops as they're heavy to transport and not easy to stack. The only place I ever see them are on milk vans, and unfortunately at the moment finances don't allow the luxury of a milk man to our house; although I often see one when I leave very early for work.
Plastic bottles are probably the most common container and it's what we always get. They're convenient for pouring, can be recycled and stand up nicely in the fridge. But they are made from hydrocarbons and so rely on fossil fuels for production. The less fossil fuels we use the better and so the less plastic packaging we use the better. This is the thinking behind selling milk in thin plastic bags instead of bottles and having a jug in your fridge into which you empty the bag once you get home from shopping.
Having had a look on the internet there seem to be some very complicated ways of using milk bags. See this video from the BBC news website. I think the easiest way to use them is to just make a small hole in the bag and squeeze or pour the milk into the jug.
When I've seen these bags in the past I've always thought they looked great, but never quite got round to buying them. But the plastic the bags use doesn't look very recyclable. It looks like the thin film you get on food products that can't be recycled. So I wonder if it is actually more green than plastic bottles. It must need less energy to transport than bottles but if you can't do anything but throw the plastic away at the end is that worth the gains in fuel? Several online sources say that the plastic is recyclable but I'm not certain. Does anyone know whether it can be, or does anyone use the bags? I'd love to find out more. Another example of where being green isn't an easy clear path!