Pinta goes green as supermarkets offer shoppers the chance to buy milk in a bag

Filed in Waste News by on June 12, 2008 24 Comments
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sainsburys milk in a bag
From The Times
June 9, 2008

Picking up a bag of milk from the shop may sound strange but could become an everyday occurrence as a “revolutionary” eco-friendly milk container is introduced across the country.

Sainsbury’s is to sell milk packaged in a recycleable plastic bag across 35 of its stores from Wednesday, to try to reduce packaging waste. It will be available in 500 stores within a year.

It is claimed that the pouches, produced in partnership with Dairy Crest, will reduce milk packaging waste by 75 per cent. The launch comes after moves by supermarkets to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags significantly, encouraging customers to use “bags for life”. Read more

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (24)

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  1. Sue says:

    So can that type of plastic bag be recycled?
    We currently recycle our milk bottles, I believe they are used to make fleece jumpers/blankets etc.
    If they are used instead of the plastic bottle what is the future for the fleece? lol 😉

  2. Mrs Green says:

    It would appear that it is recyclable Sue. I’m guessing it’s low density polythene…..

    I’m not sure how I feel about it – on the surface, saving 75% of milk packaging sounds wonderful. but I think many people, like you, are getting used to the idea of recycling their milk containers and I couldn’t see on the article how one actually recycles these bags.

    If a different recycling receptacle becomes available, then that’s great, but if not perhaps it will INCREASE the amount of plastic in the landfill.

    Maybe I missed the recycling instructions.

    Mrs G x

  3. Jane says:

    I’m inclined to agree… our council recycles milk cartons but not all types of plastic bag. I’d also have this constant fear of piercing a bag (I do most of my shopping on foot, so what I buy often comes in for quite a bashing about on the way home, especially when my son decides to drag his bag along the ground)

  4. Mrs Green says:

    We have the same facility, Jane. It’s relatively easy to find somewhere to recycle the bottles, but there is nowhere in the county to recycle the plastic bags.

    I love the image of your son dragging his shopping bag along the pavement. What with scuffed shoes and broken milk packs, he’ll look a wonderful sight!

    Mrs g x

  5. indiebird says:

    They are at least thinking about solutions although I’m not sure about this! I can see pierced plastic bags and leaky milk everywhere! What about glass. That used to work didn’t it?

  6. Mrs Green says:

    I’m a fan of glass too, Indiebird. The milkman is fab – he comes when you’re asleep, leaves the milk and takes away your empties. It’s a shame we’re losing this valuable service and buying it all in plastic. It’s just not the same. I remember opening a new bottle of milk as a child and trying to get there first so that I could have the yummy cream off the top!

    I’m not sure the bags will pierce that easily, but I can see some problems with it…….

    Mrs g x

  7. Ruth says:

    I remember buying milk in bags as a student in the early 1980’s in Liverpool. It certainly wasn’t regarded as green or trendy, we did it because it was the cheapest option! I’d prefer to buy milk in glass bottles too.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. 🙂

    I must admit, I’d never seen the plastic bag idea for milk before, although I’m aware it’s been around in other countries, like Canada for some time.
    Waitrose started selling this sort of milk a few months ago too.

    Let’s see how it goes and whether or not they bring back glass; although I rather expect that generally, those who prefer glass are in the minority 🙁

    Mrs G x

  9. Becks says:

    I remember going to the shop for a pint of milk and it being in a bag quite a few years ago. I was around 9-13 (ish) so would have been early to mid 80’s. Can’t remember the bags ever bursting but I do remember them being fiddly to open, and the milk having to be transferred to a jug once the pack was open.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Becks,
    It’s amazing how many people are remembering these plastic bags from the past.

    I believe that now they come with a special jug designed specifically for this packaging; so they shouldn’t be too difficult to open.

    I came across milk in plastic bags recently at our local farm shop; but that was particular type of goats milk; unpasteurised I think. I could see then that the packaging was really useful for freezing as it doesn’t take up too much room.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment 🙂

    Mrs G x

  11. Poppy says:

    I’m glad others have come forward and admitted to seeing these in the past as I was doubting my sanity. I was waiting until my Mum came home from Turkey to get her to verify my thoughts before I mentioned them openly 😉

  12. Mrs Green says:

    😀 no need to doubt your sanity here, Poppy. You’re amongst friends 😉

    Hope your Mum enjoyed her holiday.

  13. Maeve says:

    I lived in S.A. for many years and plastic bags of milk have been used there for a long time. We could buy 1Lt jugs specially shaped to hold them;(I used the 1Lt Tupperware jug)
    The whole packet goes into the jug and you only cut the corner off. What I especially liked was that they could be frozen so we never ran our of milk.
    The only recycling that was available to us was a paper collection but you had to take cans and bottles to the recycling centre yourself.
    Hopefully the plastic sachets used in UK would be recyclable.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Maeve,

    I’m just catching up with all the comments that have been posted this week. It’s lovely to see you and thank you for taking the time to share your experiences of living in SA.

    It seems we’re quite behind the times here in the UK and that plastic bag milk bottles are the ‘norm’ in many other places. We tried them many years ago as some of our friends remember, but for some reason they never took off then.

    They are much better for stacking in the freezer, aren’t they?

  15. Tor says:

    I was impressed with the bags when they first appeared as I thought, “Great, less waste!” although the plastic cartons were recyclable and reusable.
    What puts me off buying those now is that we have recently switched to Goats Milk at home, and they aren’t availble in bags. What also frustrates me is that a lot of retailers only sell goats milk in tetra packs which are not so easily recycled.
    Does anyone know where I can get Goats Milk in plastic bottles, othen than Waitrose?

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Tor: Hi Tor – I love your avatar; I used to have a cat just like that called Jasper! We buy goats milk too and I’ve only ever seen it in tetra paks. Have you checked out the tetra pak recycling site to see if there is a recycling area near you? I’m not aware of goats milk in anything other than tetra paks I’m afraid :/

  17. Tor says:

    @Mrs Green:

    My avatar is a pic of my cat Merlot…

    I will check out the Tetra pack site to see if there is somewhere near us – thank you!

  18. Jane says:

    I got fed up with all the bulky plastic (when it couldn’t be recycled without taking it by car) and went back to using the milkman. I decided that it didn’t need to be an either/or situation but that I would have the best of both worlds if I ordered milk (in bottles which can be reused at least 10 times to be delivered by electric float and have the empties taken away for me) in the middle of the week and then top up/use up whichever was necessary at the weekends when I had more time.

    It makes me cross that the supermarkets have all been allowed to use milk as a loss leader the way that they do and so are destroying a community service which is so important to those who cannot get out and about. If you consider the number of things that you pick up as well when you go to the supermarket for milk but wouldn’t if you hadn’t gone then I think you will find that your supermarket milk costs you more than you think.

    You can order milk online and change your order the evening before if you want to as well as ordering lots of other things and paying online. may work for you.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Tor: Merlot is a very cool name 🙂 Any luck with the tetra pak recycling in your area? It’s worth rechecking in a couple of months time if there isn’t anything because they are putting in new places all the time.

    @Jane: We’re thinking of switching to a milkman too. We can recycle the plastic bottles easily, but like you, we’re concerned about local people going out of business because of supermarkets.

  20. Tor says:

    Tetra Paks can be recycled at our household recyclng centre which is just down the road from us. We’ve set up a crate outside the back door to pu them in and will take them down there once its full – with the paper bin, “black box” bin, the plastics and cardboard bin and the dreaded landfill bin there isn’t a lot of room left in the kitchen for our recyclables and we only have a small place!

  21. Tor says:

    @Jane: Just checked out the milk and more site, love that they deliver glass milk bottles and a good range of products, but it looks like the goats milk is in tetra pak so back to square one again! I’m going to keep an eye on the site and see if anything changes in the future

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Tor: Hi Tor, recycling in a small area can be a problem; so I guess the key is keeping short accounts and making regular trips when you are passing by the recycling centre anyway. Good luck with the goats milk – do you have farm shops nearby that might be able to supply you?

  23. Seb says:

    Perhaps a letter to suppliers of non-moo milks or lactose-free (likes of Arla, Delamere, St. Helen’s etc.) suggesting they consider alternative, recyclable packaging or a door to door delivery in glass bottles may help.

    I have kind of resolved this by contacting a local dairy “packager” (Somerset Dairy) who said they will allow me to bring my own glass bottles and have them filled with pasteurised goats milk or any other milk they supply.

    However I haven’t yet tried this route as they are still quite a way away from where I live.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @Seb: That sounds like a wonderful solution Seb; it would be great if you could find out a way to make it work for you 🙂

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