Our Environmental Improvement Plan
We think milk is great. A mid-morning portion of school milk provides an amazing array of natural nutrients, and it gives children an energy and hydration boost when they need it most. We need to supply milk in hygienic, convenient packaging so that the milk drinking experience is good for the kids, and good for their teachers and carers. One size does not fit all – what works for a small single-room nursery may be wholly inappropriate for a large multi-class school. So we’re looking at a range of options to ensure that we can continue to satisfy our customers’ practical requirements whilst minimising the negative environmental impact of the product.
The world is rushing headlong towards paper straws. But there are several problems – paper straws can disintegrate quite quickly when immersed in liquids, they’re much more expensive than plastic straws, and there is insufficient production capacity to meet potential demand. So we’re looking at the problem from a fresh perspective – we’re trying to develop a straw using alternative natural materials, that will be cheap and easy to manufacture, and will degrade quickly and harmlessly in water or soil. We need some big brains to help us with this so we’ve commissioned a team of materials scientists at Cranfield University. They’ve already had some great ideas and formal laboratory work has commenced – all top secret for now, but watch this space. This is a big financial commitment for us, but it’s an exciting project and we’re giving it our best shot!
Bigger bottles are available
We know that individual third-pint cartons are much-valued by schools – they’re hygienic, it’s easy to distribute them around multiple classrooms, they don’t generate washing up, everyone gets the same quantity and they minimise accidental spillage. But of course, for every carton, there’s a straw; and pint-for-pint, individual cartons obviously contain far more packaging than larger bottles. So some schools have already changed the way they serve the milk and we now supply them with 2-litre poly bottles or, for those with a complete aversion to plastic, 1-pint glass bottles. We supply free-of-charge dishwasher-safe reusable cups for the children to drink from. We know this requires a little more work on the part of school staff but it does help schools to achieve their environmental goals as packaging waste is dramatically reduced.
Individual reusable drink bottles
OK, who likes washing up? One of the major barriers preventing schools from switching from third-pint cartons to larger “pouring” units is the prospect of collecting, washing and redistributing dozens of milk cups each day. But here’s a thought – why not ask the parents to do it? Parents are accustomed to giving their children water bottles to take to school, so why not extend this to a milk bottle? We would provide the bottles free of charge, the school would just need to pour the milk out, the children would rinse out their own bottle after use, and then they’d take it home to be washed. We’re running a trial with a handful of local schools to see how this would work in practice – we hope to publish the results of the trial soon.
The UK’s biggest school milk producer, Müller, is working with packaging supplier Tetra Pak to develop a paper straw option for their 189ml cardboard cartons. Lots of our customers receive Muller milk so we’re running a trial in a selection of schools over the next couple of months to see how their new product will work in practice – they’ve done plenty of small-scale tests, but the truest test of all will be when hundreds of children give it a try!
Milldown CofE Academy wanted to completely eliminate packaging waste so they now receive their milk in glass pint bottles.
“Our children have done a lot of work on the issue of plastic pollution and we decided that we should try to cut out all single-use plastic wherever possible”, reported head teacher James Law. “We were delighted that Cool Milk were able to arrange for our milk to be delivered in glass pints, and the children and teachers have adapted very quickly to the new way of doing things – we’re really pleased we made the change.”