Less Plastic Challenge Day 14: Returnable Bottles

When we begin to notice how much plastic has infiltrated our lives, especially when it comes to our food, it's very exciting to see companies opting for glass packaging instead of plastic or aseptics. 

What We Can Do:

  • Opt for glass packaging over plastic and aseptics
  • Reuse glass packaging at home, or return it to the store if possible 
  • Check to see if the plastic lids from glass dairy containers are recyclable in our area 

Bottle Deposit:

                                        Aseptic containers 

                                        Aseptic containers 

For most glass packaged milk, cream, and half n half, the consumer pays what is called a "bottle deposit." This is added into the cost of the milk to give you the incentive to return the bottle when it's empty. The milk bottles are sterilized and reused. When you return a bottle, your deposit is refunded. 

No Glass Options?

I recently visited my mom in Wisconsin in her little town of 5,000 people. There is one co-op that sells local and organic food; however, organic dairy packaged in glass was not an option. So, if you're like my mom, and don't have glass options for dairy, then it's worth a try to give that feedback to the store. If it's something that you think you would buy weekly, and you know other people who would too, your store will probably be very open to the possibility of bringing it in.  

Don't Eat Dairy?

If you don't eat dairy, but do partake in nut milks, nut milks are unfortunately almost always packaged in aseptic containers, which have an extremely low recycle rate. They require a special facility to be recycled, which most cities don't have. This leaves the option of making your own nutmilk, coconut milk, or oat milk at home. It's important to look at the water footprint of most nutmilks. For example, almond milk isn't a good choice right now, because almonds are predominately grown in California and require 1.1 gallons of water per almond to grow. Considering that California is in a drought, making oat milk or coconut milk is definitely a better option these days. 

Other Returnable Bottles?

Each store is going to be slightly different about bottle returns. For example, at the grocery store where I work, we have a bottle return program with a dairy company (milk, cream, half n half, and eggnog during the holidays) as well as with a company that makes Kombucha. Other stores may have bottle returns for yogurt, broth, sauerkraut, and who knows what else!

We don't eat a lot of dairy in our household, because animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change; however, if my sweetheart wants butter, I'll make it fresh from cream that's packaged in glass. We also use milk for our granola, and half and half in our coffee, but that's about it.