Recycling Plastic Milk Jugs

Our farm and creamery believe strongly in meeting the needs of the community while running a viable business to support our employees and happy cows. With this in mind, we are looking into options to reduce packaging waste. We will keep you posted as we go forward with this goal. Right now, we are looking into ways to make glass bottling a possibility for us. This may include crowd source funding to make it feasible, so keep you eyes and ears open if we start an exciting community project to create a glass milk bottle program.

The Problem

The valley no longer has a market for recycled plastics and since there is no local processing for recycled plastic the landfill is the final resting place for many milk jugs.

Our small family farm is but a drop in the pond of the milk market of Montana. Being small we are in a unique position to be able to react to some of these changes that are happening. We just dont know if our small change would be enough

What can we do?

Option 1: We can bottle some of our milk in reusable glass containers

Pros

  • Meets the demand for eliminating plastic waste
  • Meets the demand for reusable containers
  • Convenient to customers
  • Nostalgic
  • Milk just tastes better from glass

Cons

  • Expensive capital investment(bottle washer/sanitizer, filler, etc...)
  • Expensive process leading to higher market cost(Labor, logistics, weight, etc...)
  • Facility expansion required
  • Marginally better for the environment(trades landfill waste for harsh chemical usage, substantial increase in water usage and increased carbon footprint)

Option 2: We can locate self service dispensers around the valley to allow customers to fill their own containers with milk provided in bulk

Pros

  • Small capital investment(dispensers and cans)
  • Meets the demand for eliminating plastic waste
  • Meets the demand for reusable containers
  • Milk just tastes better from glass

Cons

  • Preventive State and County regulations
  • Logistically complicated
  • Heavy customer responsibility
  • Expensive process leading to higher market cost(Labor, Logistics)

Option 3: We can bottle milk in disposable cardboard

Pros

  • Reduces plastic waste
  • Allows Kalispell Kreamery milk in schools

Cons

  • Extremely expensive capital investment(>$500,000)
  • Is not recyclable in Montana

Option 4: We do nothing

Pros

  • Cheapest method

Cons

  • Do nothing, accomplish nothing

The Plan

Option 4: Do Nothing

We are currently operating under this plan. It has its merits, but does not address the issue at hand. We would be relying on other people to take up the slack in caring for our environment. We would be hedging towards other grander solutions such as regional plastic recycling coming back or other method of controlling the waste.

Option 3: Disposable Cardboard

This is not a real solution. The cardboard cartons are lined with HDPE, the same plastic our milk jugs are made out of. The cardboard is recycled as mixed cardboard and is not excepted at the local level therefore ends up in the landfill as well. Furthermore, the machine that fills cardboard containers does not lend itself well to small operations such as ours.

Option 2: Dispensers

We have researched this option well and it has merit. There are a few problems still to overcome such as the County will not allow consumers to bring their own bottles. They have to be cleaned and sanitized by the provider before filling. We could work with area outlets so that they take on this charge, or we could provide sanitized bottles for dispensing when we drop off the milk. But if we were going to wash and sanitize bottles we would just fill them in our facility rather than risk contamination in transfering the empty sanitized bottles to their point of sale. This also leaves the customer with the burden of maintaining the freshness dating etc. Furthermore, the dispenser will need regular maintenance that puts extra burden on vending hosts; cooler logging, spout changing, can changing, Bottle replenishment, etc.

Option 1: Retail Glass Bottles

This option has wide appeal but is not the most economical. There is equipment that we would need to implement this option as well as slight remodeling of our plant to make room and allow for the extra regulation that comes with bottling in glass. We are working on a plan to try and implement this option as we see it most feasible. Any investment made into this venture would not yield additional sales but replace our current sales, making it hard to justify the investment. While we are willing to do what we can for the valley we may not be able to afford it without community investment. So with that in mind, we will be seeking help from the community by way of a crowd source funding campaign. Follow this link for more details.

Did we overlook something?

If you have any ideas, either about one of our options or something entirely different, please let us know by going to our Contact Us page and sending us a note.