Might Bags-In-A-Bottle Be the Future of Packaging?

ecologic bottle photo

Photo: Ecologic Brands

Some weeks ago we were sent a media release describing what was considered a "first-of-its-kind bottle." The Ecologic Brands hybrid milk bottle is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. We say hybrid because it is really two bottles in one. The outer shell is made from 100% recycled cardboard, using the same paper pulp methods that create egg cartons. This shell can be re-recycled, or composted. The milk itself is transported in a thin, flexible inner pouch, which is said to need 70% less plastic than normal plastic jugs.

We're told that Julie Corbett, founder of California-based Ecologic Brands was inspired by Canada's milk pouch that is dropped into a re-usable plastic carafe.* But we're still not convinced by that "first-of-its-kind bottle" claim. Have a look at the GreenBottle milk jug out of the United Kingdom and you might find the similarities rather striking.

greenbottle photo

Photo: GreenBottle

The GreenBottle was on the shelves of the (Wal-mart owned) ASDA supermarkets -- Britain's second largest chain stores -- in May 2008. It was first trialled as a milk bottle. Ecologic Brands also began trials in milk, albeit organic milk, in partnership with Strauss Family Creamery sold initially (January 2010) through Whole Food stores in Northern California.

Setting aside the issues of claiming "first-of-its-kind," it is encouraging to see both companies exploring options to reducing packaging waste.

For instance, GreenBottle reckon the UK generates about 9 billion milk bottles annually. They quotes figures that On average, every British household uses 500 plastic bottles each year, but only recycle 130. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on the GreenBottle suggested it had a 48% lower carbon footprint than the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bottle equivalent.

And another British supermarket chain, Sainsburys, figure they'll save 1,400 tons of packaging, according the Telegraph. GreenBottle's inventor Martin Myerscough say in a different Telegraph article that his research indicates that milk bottles account for 130,000 tons of UK landfill waste.

Other countries, from South Africa to Poland have embraced milk bags. Might these bags in a box be an intermediate step for other nations to follow their lead?

ecologic bottle comparison image

The traditional milk bottle containers. Image: Ecological Brands

* I remember the milk-bag-and-plastic-carafe idea from my childhood (which was many, many years ago). But the trial in our town was discontinued, because this was in the days of home delivery and the local cats and birds soon learnt, to their great delight, how to open the thin bags left next to household letterboxes.

:: Ecologic Brands
:: GreenBottle
More on the Greenest Bottle Debate
Which Milk Container Has the Lowest Carbon Emissions?
Nice Jugs and How to Milk Them for all They're Worth
Gallon Milk Jug Gets Redesigned For a Low Carbon World
Hitting the Bottle or Hitting the Box? The Debate Continues
In What World Can You Call Tetra Pak Green?
In Defense Of TetraPak

Related Content on Treehugger.com