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July 03, 2007


Hamish Harvey

Hi Earl,

What about the process of "drying" the milk? How much energy goes in? How much waste comes out? What is done with that waste? Where is the milk drying factory? How far does the "wet" milk travel to that factory? And the (much smaller) dried product?

On the criteria of food miles and energy consumption, it would surely be hard to beat glass bottles, washed and reused on site at a local dairy. But for other reasons, dairy is already an international business (luckily for my sister, who farms in NZ).


Earl Mardle


I did a rough calculation of the difference between drying the milk and shifting the wet stuff, and based on the huge difference in price I guessed that the drying option is lighter on energy consumption.

Production waste didn't come into it because I suspect that both create about the same.
As for glass bottles, we thought about that too, although its no longer an option in Australia. I suspect that the very high energy input to make them, plus the energy cost of sterilising them between uses is possibly higher than the energy cost of the plastic ones and with an effective recycling programme the plastic ones might come out slightly ahead.

The real questions are how we justify the energy and resource depletion at all for adult consumption of milk and the opportunity costs of the land use in feeding cows (methane production from the need to break down cellulose in grass which is pretty inefficient) to produce the milk in the first place.

They are small steps and I would do much better if I just kept my ass off airplanes.

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