The cardboard milk bottle that could curb growth of landfill sites

A milk bottle made out of cardboard could solve one of the small nuisances of modern life and prevent thousands of tons of plastic from being dumped in landfill every year.

Few of the bulky two and four-litre plastic bottles of milk found in modern kitchens are recycled; 93 per cent are thrown out with the household rubbish.

Now a British inventor has developed an alternative - a recycled cardboard bottle called the Greenbottle. A biodegradable bag inside the cardboard contains the milk and ensures the bottle does not go soggy.

Once the milk has been drunk, the cardboard can be put out for recycling along with newspapers and magazines (providing the council accepts cardboard).

Martin Myerscough, the bottle's inventor from Framlingham, Suffolk, has been developing the product for the past 18 months after coming up the idea in the pub. He has now reached agreement with Asda, which has been trialling the bottles at a Lowestoft store, for the same price as conventional bottles.

Although the cardboard bottles cost about 30 per cent more to produce than plastic bottles, Mr Myerscough believes the price will even out when they get to higher production runs. If the bottles prove popular, Asda could roll them out nationwide in an attempt to cut the three-million tons of plastic that is thrown away in the UK annually.

More than 100,000 tons of that plastic comes from milk bottles; equivalent to the weight of 260 jumbo jets. They take 500 years to decompose. Laminated milk cartons are also frequently thrown away and are made from trees rather than recycled materials.

Mr Myerscough, who has applied for a patent, said: "It's always bothered me that consumers have had to buy milk in plastic bottles that are difficult to recycle. The new design ensures that the packaging protects the milk and yet can easily be recycled easing the pressure on landfill, which is becoming limited and expensive. Plastic milk bottles could become a thing of the past."

The entrepreneur came up with the idea while talking to an employee from the local waste dump in a pub a year ago. "I asked him what the tip was full of and he said: 'Plastic bottles. People drink the milk and throw them away. The tip is full of fresh air'."

With a background in mechanical engineering, Mr Myerscough decided to tackle the problem and found ready backing at the local dairy, Marybelle, which supplies Asda.

James Strachan, Marybell's executive director, believed that local milk in a recyclable bottle would be popular with customers.

"I don't think it will be long before we're only using Greenbottles nationwide," he said.

Asda, which intends to reduce packaging by 25 per cent, also considers the product attractive.

"Greenbottle delivers a win-win for supermarkets and consumers in our collective effort to reduce the environmental footprint," said Chris Brown, Asda's head of sourcing.

* Waitrose is to stop handing out free plastic bags at its shop in Saffron Walden, Essex, for the next two weeks. Instead, customers will be asked to reuse old carriers and shopping bags.