Recycling is not a big thing in Greece, but the 'milk ATM' in Athens is very inspiring. There is zero small package since the milk is transported with large, reusable metal cans. Now people have an excuse to buy a beautiful glass or ceramic bottle. Fill it with fresh milk any time of the day, be it 3 a.m.
Similarly, this farmer in the UK is using vending machine to cut middlemen, so that he can earn more. Potentially, this can cut plastic waste too.
so let's byob!
The above vending machine (I call it BYOB system) can be used to distribute many other kinds of liquid, but I will elaborate on the use of milk first. Due to high consumption of milk in many countries, selling milk through BYOB system can make a big difference in reducing plastic waste. Sellers can get their investment on the machines back relatively soon. Let's do some rough math.
According to this report, milk consumed as liquid in the UK accounts for 7,028 million litres in 2014. Assumed that all of the milk is packed in 1L plastic bottles. This whole sale website sells a set of 1L plastic bottle and cap for £0.43. By eliminating the plastic bottles, the whole industry can save £3,022 millions. Who doesn't like money?
Here is a plan for supermarkets:
1) Campaign stage: sell 50% of their own brand milk with vending machine. First 10,000 customers can get a special design glass bottle (sterilised) for free
2) Transitional stage: sell 75% with vending machine. Customers can pay £1 deposit to get a glass bottle. They can choose to return the bottle to get the deposit back, or use it as their permanent milk container.
3) Final stage: sell 100% with vending machine. Glass bottles with deposit
Small farmers can use a similar plan. They can find a local corner shop to house the machine and provide the glass bottle service.
This system can be applied on any kind of liquid that has high consumption, from soy milk to coke, from olive oil to soy sauce. In the case of oil, the plastic package is not very desirable for recycling since it's contaminated by oil which is difficult to wash off. Reusing the package is a way out, and even more eco-friendly than recycling.