Your guide to eco-friendly, sustainable packaging

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

Do you know your recyclables from your reusables? 

Sustainable packaging is part and parcel of life at the Modern Milkman, and all our delicious produce is neatly wrapped in eco-friendly materials that have as little impact on the environment as possible. 

Here’s a quick green packaging guide to ensure you know your return-and-reuse from your recyclable, and your compostables from your kraft paper. 

What is environmentally friendly packaging? 

Environmentally friendly packaging is made of materials that are kinder to the planet than those with little life span and big waste. 

Single-use plastics are made to be used and abused. Our planet isn’t. That’s why our plastic free groceries come in sustainable packaging that maximises taste and minimises waste. 

Types of sustainable food packaging 

Eco-friendly packaging is a more sustainable way to protect, preserve and deliver produce. Coming in various shapes and forms, it requires little-to-no added resources for its disposal and creation. 

These are the key types of green packaging: 

  • • Recyclable 
  • • Return and reuse 
  • • Compostable 
  • • Biodegradable 

What does recyclable mean? 

Okay, let’s talk trash. Recycling is the process of converting waste into new materials and objects, ensuring useful resources aren’t wasted after single use. Nifty, ay?  

Recyclable packaging materials include paper, cardboard, glass, metal and some types of plastics. However, the process of reusing plastic requires a lot of heavy lifting in terms of sorting and melting it down. This is because, just like in Mean Girls, the plastics are artificial, up to no good, and belong in the Burn Book. 

Our products with recyclable packaging:  

We strive to make sure our milkround has a low impact on the planet and your stress levels, which is why all our recyclable packaging can be dealt with at home. 

UK recycling symbols 

Recycling rules! But the rules can be complicated. Here are the symbols to look out for when shopping for eco-friendly food and drink

  • • Recycle – the packaging is recycled in at least 75% of local UK authorities. 
  • • Rinse and recycle – the packaging is recyclable, but only after you’ve removed any food residue. Make sure you’ve licked and wiped those takeaway trays clean, otherwise they can contaminate your whole recycling. Pretty crummy, right? 
  • • Recycle with bags at large supermarket – the packaging is recyclable, but not in your usual recycling bin. This usually applies to plastic wrapping, which you can take to larger recycling points at your local supermarket.  

Return and reuse – Lather, rinse, repeat 

Return and reuse creates a circular economy with zero waste, making it the most kick-ass way to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. 

Unlike single-use plastics, it keeps packaging in the sustainable loop. This means there’s no wasted materials, efforts and resources. Winner, winner, keeping landfills thinner! 

There’s a reason why we call it a milkround and not a milkline, and that’s because it creates this lovely, curvaceous circular economy that goes round and round like the wheels on a bus or a toddler singing Baby Shark. 

This is the circle of (Modern Milkman) life, and we’re not lion when we say it’s the king of cutting down waste. We go full throttle in saving bottles, collecting, sterilising and reusing each one to give the planet and your wheelie bin a well-deserved breather. 

Our products with return and reuse packaging:  

Return for recycling 

We all need a bit of R&R, especially the planet. Return for recycling packaging is collected by our milkies then recycled by us. This ensures the materials are recycled properly, and that those of you unable to recycle your glass kerbside can still dispose of your waste sustainably. 

Our products with return and reuse packaging:  

What does compostable mean? 

If a material or compound is compostable, it will break down into 100% organic biomass, which can be used as fertiliser for growing plants. 

Saving the planet from the ground up, composting is a way of telling waste to eat dirt. Rather than growing landfills, compostable packaging helps to grow your garden, planting the seeds for a brighter, greener future. 

Biodegradable vs compostable 

There is some confusion around the difference between compostable and biodegradable, and the two are linked.  

Biodegradable refers to anything that decays, which pretty much covers everything – even phone batteries! But if something is biodegradable and not compostable, it will take many years to decompose, leaving behind pesky pollutants and troublesome toxic waste. 

Compostable, on the other hand, refers to things that break down without pollution or damage to the environment, releasing added nutrients to soil and plants. This includes garden waste and food scraps. Speaking of which, while you’re here, why not read our guide to learn how to grow vegetables from food scraps

Not all biodegradable things are compostable, but all compostable things are biodegradable. Kind of like how all Jacuzzis are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are Jacuzzis. 

Home Compostable 

Home compostable packaging can fully decompose in a home compost within 90 days. This is the compostable packaging sweet spot as it requires no added energy or resources. 

All our compostable packaging is home compostable, so that your garden can make a meal of waste without you leaving your house. 

Our products with home compostable packaging:  

  • • Our cereal packaging is made using cellulose, sourced from renewable wood starch. All you need to do is remove the label and it can go right into your compost bin or pile. 
  • • Our bakery range and fruit & veg come in kraft paper bags, which can be tossed straight into your compost. Food for the soil, and the soul! 

Looking to start composting and dig up the dirt on waste? Read our blog on how to check if your eggs are ready for composting, before making your own DIY compost bin and discovering what compost is used for

Industrially Compostable 

Industrial compostables are materials and compounds that break down within 90 days, but only in the conditions of an industrial composting plant. These commercial facilities are designed to cope with huge volumes of organic waste on a large scale, but not many of them exist in the UK. 

We avoid industrially compostable packaging and stick to giving customers packaging that fertilises their garden without machinery, travel or added cost. 

Impact of sustainable packaging 

Convenience shouldn’t cost the earth, and it should come with a conscience.  

Our sustainable milkround has helped customers save thousands of plastic bottles from landfill. If you’d like to dive into what this means for our planet, check out our 2021 Impact Report

Look how much plastic we've saved!


Plastic bottles saved and counting


Wheelie bins of plastic saved from landfill

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