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Milk - paper vs plastic
Eve Stavros
August 29, 2011 - 12:13 pm

I need advice.  I have nowhere I can buy any kind of milk in glass bottles and can't decide which is the healther (for me or enviro) choice: milk in plastic or cardboard, which I know is coated with plastic.  My curbisde recycling will take both, so I really do have a choice.  I can't use almond or other nut milk, since I need dairy milk to make my own yoghurt & “cheese”…until I can find a better source (like a direct line on a goat or a cow:)).  I've given up so many foods and products from my consumption because of plastic packaging, I feel like I can live with myself for this one.  But which is best???  Paper or plastic?

Beth Terry
401 Posts
August 29, 2011 - 12:17 pm

Eve, I think maybe a good idea would be to contact your local recycler and ask them which they would prefer.  Which one is actually easier for them to recycle.  Coated paper is hard to recycle.  And it doesn't compost well either.  HDPE plastic is probably easier to recycle.  But it uses more plastic.  I don't know if there is a perfect answer, but I'd start with checking with the recycling company and find out which one they like better and which one has a better market.

Eve Stavros
August 30, 2011 - 8:49 am

Thanks, Beth!  I'll do that.  Never even thought of this as an option! 

Beth Terry
401 Posts
August 30, 2011 - 11:10 am

Eve, will you please report back and let us know what they say? I'd be very interested to hear. In fact, I think I'll call Oakland's recycling company and ask the same question.

August 30, 2011 - 12:46 pm

On a somewhat related note, any suggestions for what to do with the plastic tops to glass milk bottles?

I haven't checked for a recycle #…maybe they can be recycled?

I Recently saw a blog post on Crafting A Green World where they made wall art, frames, and other kitchy crafts with plastic bottle tops but sometimes this kind of thing seems a little to tacky for me….

Any ideas for more practical uses are definitely worth sharing!

Beth Terry
401 Posts
August 31, 2011 - 11:59 am

Nic, do you know offhand what kind of plastic it is?  I don't have any handy right now to check — without going through my 2007 plastic stash!  If they are #5 plastic, Aveda will take them for recycling.  But if they are something else like #2 then that avenue is out.  Do you have one there you can check?

September 2, 2011 - 10:09 am

I keep meaning to check the one from my ravioli project that is still sitting on my counter.  Of course I never think of it when I'm actually in the kitchen.  If it's #5 our local co-op collects these too which is extra handy…they probably ship them somewhere but I'm assuming that one bulk shipment is better than lots of individual shipments (mail and shipping is a huge issue for me since this country so poorly uses it's railroads for consumer products…though that's a whole seperate topic…)


I will TRY really hard to remember to check this when I tidy the kitchen this weekend. 

Sam Snider
September 5, 2011 - 10:08 pm

Plastic only milk containers – hands down.


Paper is NO alternative –

and paper covered in plastic? That's just the worst of both worlds…..

Beth Terry
401 Posts
September 6, 2011 - 10:38 am

I asked the question of Rebecca Jewell, the coordinator of the Davis Street Transfer Station out here in Oakland, and she also agrees that HDPE plastic is better than plastic-coated paper, where recycling is concerned.  I had a feeling that would be the answer, but I wanted to make sure.  Here is what she wrote:

“For milk, I choose HDPE instead of cartons because the recycling infrastructure is so clear and so uncomplicated. HDPE will always be recovered and recycled where as the cartons are more complex.

“The size & shape of the cartons means they might end up with containers, not with the paper. So the facility has to spend some time & effort to get them back to the paper. Then when it does end up in the paper, it has to make it into the mixed paper, not the newspaper because it’s a contaminant in the news. Once it does make it into the mixed paper, then its potential to be recycled depends on who buys it and their processes.

“All that makes gable-top recycling more complicated and less certain for me, personally.  And this is the case for just about every facility, not just DSTS. 

“Aseptics… it’s similar to the gable tops, sadly. The hydropulping technology necessary isn’t common and they don’t make up enough of the stream to have a separate system just for them, unlike, say, aluminum or cardboard.”

Eve Stavros
October 13, 2011 - 9:48 am

I did hear back in response to my email to my recycling/trash company, from Erin LeClair, Recycling Educator, Brevard County Solid Waste Management.  She was quite friendly & helpfully directed me to a recent article in the Washington Post:…..04969.html

She says: “The article describes the pros and cons of each item but it looks like plastic containers are the best choice as long as they are recycled.  Keep in mind though that now all of the recycling in the county is mixed together; single-stream recycling, cartons can also go into your curbside recycling bin.”


I guess it all depends on whether or not they really do separate the paper cartons at the facility.  I've written back to her with a follow-up.  But for now, the plastic jugs are the container of choice.  And hey – good news!!! Next year I'll be living where I can get farm-fresh milk…in GLASS.  Yippeeee!!! Virginia, here I come!!!

October 15, 2011 - 9:56 am

I live in Virginia and buy farm-fresh milk in glass!  It tastes sooooo much better.  Plastic milk makes me gag now.  The $2 bottle deposit is totally worth it.

Eve Stavros
January 20, 2012 - 4:26 am

After 4 insane months of selling, packing, and moving house I finally made it to Virginia.  While the move drove my plastic consumption embarrassingly high, I'm pleased to report that I've found milk in glass is readily available, thank you Homestead Creamery, so I'm hopeful I can make amends for all that packing tape… Plastic top, but I'm already looking into what #, can it be recycled, or is Homestead willing to consider changing to metal.   Can't wait to see what other plastic-free options are out there in the Old Dominion!

January 20, 2012 - 7:35 am

We're moving soon, and I'm not looking forward to the process!  One of the bright spots is that we'll be able to get milk in glass bottles delivered right to our door.

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