Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Milk cartons

On my way to Norwich this week I picked up a tatty copy of the Eastern Daily Press in the train. On about page three was an exciting article headed "pilot for greener pinta packaging". I immediately assumed it was talking about glass milk bottles but no. "First came the traditional glass milk bottle, then the plastic alternative – and now a Lowestoft supermarket has launched the ‘Green bottle.’"

That's how the article opened. Anyone would think, reading these words, that the traditional glass milk bottle no longer existed. And that the move from glass to plastic to the new sort was progress towards a greener alternative.

Alas no. This is yet another attempt by the supermarkets to climb onto a fake green wagon and persuade us that shopping at the supermarket is some kind of positive contribution to eco-friendly ways of doing things. This time the idea is that there is a cardboard outer bottle, which can be sent to cardboard recycling, and some kind of unspecified (plastic? presumably so) inner bag which evidently can't be recycled, but "is quickly biodegradable".


So you have to pull it apart and put part of it in the recycling box (or, for Cambridge presumably, the compost bin) and part of it in the landfill rubbish. Well, I'm sceptical how much of that will happen.

Part of this report makes sense: "With more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic bottles currently going to landfill each year – the equivalent of 260 jumbo jets ... "

Well, exactly. None of that need happen if people have their milk delivered in glass bottles that are re-used.

But some of it just doesn't make sense: “Designer Martin Myerscough said ‘It's always bothered me that consumers have had to buy milk in plastic bottles that are difficult to recycle.’”

But consumers in Britain don't have to buy milk in plastic bottles. If supermarkets didn't sell milk, no one would buy it in plastic bottles.

In my ideal Greener Britain, all local councils would subsidise the delivery of milk in re-usable glass bottles to people's doorsteps, so that it was the preferred way to get your milk, and they would allow only independent corner shops to sell milk over the counter. No milk available in supermarkets at all, and nothing in plastic bottles. That would cut 260 jumbo jets out of our landfill sites at a stroke. Just like that. And there'd be no cardboard to collect for recycling either. So the council would save money and the milk would be cleaner and greener. And people could have other groceries delivered, bread, milk, eggs, juice, yogurt, probiotic drinks and all the other things the milkman brings. And they wouldn't need to drive to the supermarket. And the Milkies would make a decent living, and they'd have enough families on their round to make their journey less wasteful. And the corner shops would be part of the community. And all would be well.

1 comment:

Annie said...

In Italy there are no milkmen, but they buy the milk at a milk shop so they don't have to go to the supermarket. They call it a "latteria" and there's one in every village. You can also buy milk at the baker. Not that they use glass bottles, but they certainly could.

In France on the other hand there is practically no fresh milk, and it's all UHT in ultra-non-green cartons. This is BAD.