We’re so pleased you’ve taken the time to read our views on packaging.
At Douet Farm, we always consider the environment in every decision we make, so using plastic bottles to sell our milk has not been a decision we’ve made lightly.
After a lot of research and consulting with Jersey’s Recycling Team, we’ve chosen to use BPA-free, HDPE plastic bottles to sell our milk, rather than glass bottles.
We are unconvinced about using glass bottles in our situation for the following reasons. However, we are more than happy to chat to anyone that thinks they have the answer and we ourselves are constantly monitoring new packaging products, or methods that would make re-using glass more efficient.
Decisions concerning the impact on the planet are rarely simple. Let us talk you through our current thoughts…
Glass bottles come from the UK factory unclean. They would need thorough cleaning when they arrive with hot water and detergent. They then need rinsing again before filling. Then once customers return them to us, they need proper cleaning again with hot water and detergent.
Compare that to plastic bottles, which are hygienically packed in the factory, so we can fill them with milk straight away. We don’t need to use any water or any detergent to clean them first, so far less water and detergent is used with plastic bottles.
We have started up our goat enterprise from scratch. We don’t currently have the infrastructure (the machinery, space or manpower) to clean and sterilise the glass bottles to meet food hygiene requirements.
We are all trying to save energy. It takes less energy to manufacture plastic bottles than it does glass bottles. This is because plastics are soft and therefore have relatively low melting points.
Also, to recycle HDPE plastic, requires much lower temperatures than recycling other types of plastic, making it much easier to recycle and causes much lower impact.
There’s no getting away from the fact that plastic is incredibly light weight, and our bottles have to go on a long journey before reaching customers. The bottles have to be transported to Jersey from England, so consider the journey made: in a truck across England from the factory to the port, on the ferry to Jersey, from the harbour to our farm, and then in our delivery van round the island. Every step of this journey requires fuel, and the heavier the load, the more fuel required. So, plastic bottles require less fuel to transport than glass bottles.
But the glass bottles would be re-used, so you’d only need to import them from England once, we hear your say. In an ideal world, yes! However, other farmers in the UK doing similar things to us, report that at least 40% of their glass bottles are NOT returned, so they still need to buy new glass bottles each month, which means the transport problem still exists.
Glass is more expensive than plastic. At Douet Farm, we always source the best, and consider the total impact, not just price. That said, our milk would be at least 10% more expensive if it was sold in a glass bottle, rather than a plastic bottle.
We know that some of our customers like to freeze their milk and this is much safer if the milk is in a plastic bottle, rather than glass. There is a likely chance that the glass would break in the freezer!
We have purposely chosen bottles that are BPA free and easy to recycle. When our wonderful customers recycle them after use – the plastic can go on to have a life afterwards.
But what about compostable plastic bottles?
There have been great advances in technology in the last decade and we’ve no doubt that something even better is around the corner. Currently, there are bottles made from PLA which is a plastic substitute made from plant starch, that is marketed as biodegradable.
Sounds too good to be true? We think it is!
When we looked into it a bit more, we found that PLA is only biodegradable in industrial conditions. To biodegrade, it needs to be in a closed composting environment, heated to specific temperatures and exposed to specific microbes (and even then it can take up to 90 days), which means you can’t just toss it into your compost heap!
It would take over 100 years for a PLA bottle to decompose in a natural environment. Jersey does not currently have a high temperature industrial composting facility, which means, from a Jersey point of view, PLA plastic bottles are treated the same as any other plastic bottle put for recycling – shipped to England.
Another downside of PLA is that a huge amount of corn is needed to make it. This comes with all its own negative issues too – mono-cropping and the lack of biodiversity and often the use of GM crops too – to name a few.
And that’s why we’re using plastic bottles! For now. And we trust that our wonderful customers will recycle their bottles responsibly.
We aren’t saying we’ll never use glass, or that we’ll always use plastic. And we’re always keen to hear other people’s suggestions and ideas, so please do get in touch if you want to talk bottles!