Image of a dairy cow

The war on plastic has given a new lease of life to a forgotten hero of the British doorstep

The humble milkman is making a comeback with a resurgence of interest in having a daily “pinta” delivered in a glass bottle.

It’s a startling fact that the top four multiples (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons) account for 62% of UK milk sales while so-called “hard discounters” (including Aldi and Lidl) are the second biggest retailers, according to AHDB Dairy (https://dairy.ahdb.org.uk).

Needless to say, the vast majority of milk is sold in plastic containers.

Zero-waste food shops have sprung up in response to public disquiet about the mountains of unnecessary plastic packaging used to wrap fruit and veg, dry store products, detergents and drinks.

Waitrose is testing 200 plastic-free lines at a store in Oxford and while it’s a bold move, only time will tell if this is the latest shopping fad, or the new normal.

However, if sustainability means anything, surely it must mean farmers are able to eke out a livelihood with a degree of certainty and stability.

And that might mean reclaiming the means of supply and distribution, which is what has happened at Manor Farm in Jersey, the island’s only independent dairy.

Husband-and-wife team Darren and Julie Quenault run Classic Herd at their farm in St. Peter, producing a range of milk, cream, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream from their 60-strong Jersey herd.

Zero-waste milk is now supplied direct to consumers from a farm-gate vending machine that’s situated just across the road from the rich pastures where the animals graze.

Local people use the self-cleaning vending machine to fill up glass bottles with pasteurised milk. The bottles can be purchased from the farm’s shop, and re-used indefinitely.

The Quenaults now sell 800 litres of milk a week from the machine. In the first six weeks of its operation, the couple shifted 5,109 litres of milk, selling it for £1.20 a litre. “We would get 50p a litre selling to a local dairy,” says Julie.

Shoppers say the milk tastes better from a glass bottle rather than a plastic container and Julie believes it gives the everyday product a premium feel, too.

The milk is not homogenised so the rich, tasty cream rises to the top. It can be poured off the milk for a lower butterfat percentage. The cream can then be used separately, or shoppers can chance their arm at churning homemade butter.