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How did a fresh milk farm eliminate 1.5 ton plastic waste of Coimbatore?

, Paal

By Anil Kumar

Mar 17, 2019

A ton of a Problem: According to Tamilnadu Animal Husbandry Dairy Development Policy note for the year 2017 – 2018, around 1.5 lakh liter of milk is sold every day in Coimbatore. Most of it is packed in plastic pouches. 

That is around one ton of plastic waste is produced daily from Coimbatore alone. In one year, we produce 365 tons of plastic waste. Recycling the total plastic waste is next to impossible.

When we were young, our moms used to collect those plastic pouches and sell it during month-ends. Those days are long gone. The effort to collect these stinky pouches and saving it until the month-end is not adding up.

A Transparent Solution:

To solve this ever-growing problem, we decided to act. We did a small research on the packaging available for our fresh milk. There were tetra packs, plastic pouches, plastic bottles and right at the bottom there were these glass bottles.

The most eco-friendly are glass bottles but they come with their own baggage of logistical nightmare.

  1. Inflexible Logistics

  2. Cost of delivery is high

  3. Handling is tough

  4. Inconvenience to customers

Since we are a very small boutique farm, we thought we would experiment with glass bottle packaging for our fresh milk and fight the battle of convenience and cost.

Role of our customer community:

The packaging was an instant hit among our customers. But it took some getting used-to in the beginning. Every day our customers have to remember to place their bottles in a safe place outside their door.

"If 50% of our customers do not keep the bottles outside, we will have to bring in 50% new bottles for delivery next day. Not only that, when these bottles have to be collected along with the bottles from the previous days, our delivery team has a tough job accommodating it all!"

So in order for this model to succeed, our customers have to give up some of their convenience. To our surprise, no one complained.

Everyone welcomed this change with a smile. While we are working to improve this process, our customers’ role in bringing back the glass bottles to the milk industry at least in Coimbatore is really vital.

Not only were there environmental benefits, but it also helped our customers to get better quality fresh milk.

Glass bottles

  1. Helps to keep the milk fresh

  2. Retains the taste of the milk.

  3. A fresh bottle of milk has a certain integrity to it and the glass retains that.

1.5-ton plastic waste:

In the last three years of our existence, we along with our customers eliminated 1.5-ton plastic waste from its occurrence. Out of 365-ton recursive yearly waste, we just eliminated 1.5 ton in three years.

Though this comparison sounds very small we definitely believe that with our community-driven model we will be able to scale this up multifolds. Our dream is to see the fresh milk bottles on every doorstep of Coimbatore and change this 365 tons to 0!

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there will be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Anil Kumar is a farmer in Paal (www.paal.co) and one of the first integrated dairy farms delivering fresh milk directly to households in Coimbatore. This article is about the recycling methods they’ve undertaken in their farm to reduce the plastic waste.

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