The image of a milkman delivering glass bottles directly to the homes of consumers is, for many people, just a quaint picture that exists only in movies or old TV shows.
Some of us, however, still remember the sound of clinking bottles and the friendly greeting from our local milkman.
When I was young, and delivering newspapers instead of writing them, It was common to see insulated boxes next to people’s doors. These boxes are where the milkman left the products he delivered.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, in the early 1960s, nearly 30 percent of consumers had milk delivered.
Times change, as did people’s shopping habits.
Supermarkets replaced local grocery stores, and plastic, disposable packaging took over.
Home milk delivery all but disappeared.
In some places, however, it is making a comeback.
One reason for this is the increasing awareness of our problem with plastic.
We create mountains of plastic garbage that will never break down.
Plastic is contaminating our land and polluting our water. Many of these plastic containers are used just once and discarded.
Glass bottles, on the other hand, can be used many times.
In the case of home milk delivery, the milkman picks up the empty bottles when he makes his deliveries.
The bottles are washed, sanitized, and reused.
There are other benefits, as well.
I think things taste better when they are stored in glass, and I’d rather drink milk (or other beverages) from glass bottles than plastic any day.
People are becoming more aware, and want to know what they are consuming and where it came from.
Home milk delivery from local dairies shortens the distance between producer and consumer.
The energy that is fueling the return of the milkman in some areas is similar to that which motivates consumers to shop at local farmers markets or participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.
I wouldn’t want to appear too optimistic. The percentage of consumers who get milk delivered to their homes is tiny, and the service is not even available in many areas.
Home delivery of milk is also slightly more expensive than buying milk in a supermarket, but it is important to remember there is also a cost to using disposable plastic packaging.
While it may be unrealistic to expect the return of friendly neighborhood milkmen in iconic white suits and caps, delivering milk in reusable glass bottles may still be a viable option today, especially when it is combined with the delivery of other products in environmentally-responsible packaging like Amazon Prime on a hyperlocal level.
Sometimes, the old way of doing things may prove to be the best way.