What exactly renders a returnable glass bottle for milk sustainable?
The Berchtesgadener Land dairy has been awarded the Reusable Systems Innovation Prize of the German environmental association Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg (SIM; Foundation for Reusable Systems) for its new Krones glass line. A welcome opportunity for us to take a look at the factors influencing the sustainability of packaging.
The glass bottle is the most commonly used returnable packaging for milk and practically the only one that is taken back. Consumers regard it as a sustainable container of a superior nature that protects top-quality fresh milk. And it has recently been making a comeback: In 2019, sales of milk in returnable glass bottles in Germany were up by about 30 per cent over the preceding year. But the overall reuse quota for containers of milk-based beverages, at about 1.3 per cent, is very low. That was not always the case: In 2015, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu) found that the proportion of returnable glass bottles for fresh milk had fallen by a good 90 per cent between 1995 and 2005. Demand for milk in returnable glass is now rising again. Berchtesgadener Land felt the full effect of this uptrend, which pushed the dairy’s old line to the limits of its capacity. With its new Krones filling line, the cooperative has doubled the output to 12,000 bottles per hour and is again able to respond in full to the demand of milk and cream fans.