Milk bag

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Milk bags on sale in Budapest Bagged milk in Budapest, August 2006.jpg
Milk bags on sale in Budapest

A milk bag is a plastic bag that contains milk. Milk bags are usually stored in a pitcher or jug with one of the corners cut off to allow for pouring. A typical milk bag contains approximately 1 L (1.8 imp pt) of milk in South America, Iran, Israel, Eastern Europe, Brazil and the Baltics, while in the UK they contain 2 imperial pints (1.1 L), in Canada 1+13 litres (2.3 imp pt), and in India, 0.5 L (0.9 imp pt). [1]



Milk bags are popular in the Baltic rim countries, e.g., Estonia, and some Eastern European countries, where they may also be seen used for packaging yogurt or kefir. Milk bags were used in Australia (Greater Shepparton, Victoria), in the late 1990s, distributed by Shepparton-based dairy company Ducats. They were also used in Gympie, Queensland, in the 1970s and early 1980s, and also in Caboolture, Queensland around the same time. These were one pint in size.

By country


A milk bag in Ontario, Canada Milkbag.jpg
A milk bag in Ontario, Canada

Bagged milk is common in eastern Canada. The innovation was introduced in 1967 by DuPont using European equipment. The new packaging quickly found favour with the domestic dairy industry, being lighter and less fragile than glass bottles. However, the consumer public preferred plastic jugs for years, but largely accepted the new containers in certain regions in the 1970s. A major reason for that shift was with the national conversion to the metric system, which was easier to adjust to on production with bags, while doing the same for jugs required entire systems to be wholly redesigned. [2] Regulation in Ontario that required retailers to collect a deposit on milk jugs, but not bags, also motivated the practice. [3]

Milk bags are sold in parts of central Canada, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, but not widely sold in western Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador. [2] Three bags are sold together in a larger bag containing a total of 4 L (7 imp pt) of milk. The bags are not sold individually, and are either not labelled at all or labelled with only the expiry date, the lot number and sometimes the type of milk contained in the bag. The three-bag 4 L (7 imp pt) package is the largest normally sold at retail, with the lowest unit price. Some convenience store chains offer 4 L (7 imp pt) plastic jugs instead of milk bags, even in eastern Canada. Two accessories are commonly associated with Canadian milk bags — pitchers and bag openers. The key-shaped bag opener with a clip and a magnet was invented in Toronto in 1979. [4] These bag openers are a common type of refrigerator magnet, although the bags can be opened with scissors or knives. Large milk bags inside corrugated boxes (bag-in-box) are often used in milk dispensers at schools and institutions.


In urban parts of India, milk is most commonly sold in 0.5-litre and 1-litre bags.


In Israel, milk in a bag is the most common type of packaging for milk. They became the standard form of milk packaging in the 1960s, with the discontinuation of glass bottles. In Israel, the milk bag is a regulated product, which means that its price is controlled by the state. Therefore, there are price differences between the milk bags and the other alternatives available for marketing milk — plastic bottles or milk cartons. Due to the price differences, a relationship was observed between the socioeconomic status of the consumer and the type of milk container that they customarily purchased. The higher the socio-economic status of the purchaser, the more likely they are to buy milk in cartons rather than in bags, despite the higher price of cartons. Based on these differences, Network Blue Square created a way to measure the socioeconomic status of an area based on the sales ratio of milk cartons versus bagged milk. The higher the ratio of the former to the latter, the higher the status of the region in Israel. [5] For religious Jews, opening a bag of milk can be considered problematic on Shabbat, because the action requires cutting. Israel's interior minister has used empty milk bags in the Knesset, as props to complain about price-hikes in the cost of milk. [6]


In Korea, milk was occasionally sold in plastic bags until 1988. Since 1974, Seoul Milk has been marketing coffee milk in small single serving 200ml bags. [7]


In Mexico, assistance programs and prior welfare and government social programs distribute milk in bags (1 l (1.8 imp pt) per bag) at very low prices. [8]

South America

Milk bags are also commonly used in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. [9]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Sainsbury's began a pilot experiment on distributing milk in bags in 2008 in conjunction with Dairy Crest. [10] It was originally targeted at 35 stores at the same price as a regular 2-imperial-pint (1.1 l) plastic bottle of milk, [11] the product was expanded through the North of England nationwide in 2010 at which point the bags retailed at a discounted price compared to traditional containers. [12] In the UK, the bags are usually used in conjunction with a specialized plastic jug. The bag fits snugly inside the jug, one corner of the bag is secured under a bar at the front of the jug, and as the lid is closed the bag is pierced and a spout slides into the hole, maintaining freshness and allowing the milk to be easily poured. Doorstep deliveries in the United Kingdom are normally associated with traditional glass milk bottles, but the Dairy Crest/Milk & More service also deliver milk bags, and sell Jug-It brand plastic jugs specially designed to hold the milk bags. After lengthy negotiations, Milk & More was bought by dairy giant Müller from Dairy Crest in December 2015 and sales of the Jug-It plastic bags ceased. [13]

United States

Dairies in the United States used the bags in the 1980s, but today are confined mainly to regional convenience store chains with in-house dairies, such as Kwik Trip in the Upper Midwest and other boutique dairies.


Milk pitcher with lid Milk Pitcher With Lid.jpg
Milk pitcher with lid

The principal benefits of bagged milk are economic and freshness. For producers, it is easier to vary portion size when sealing bags than cartons, as well as lowering the cost of packaging. Milk bags also take up less space in garbage. For consumers, bags typically allow for smaller portion sizes. This theoretically reduces the risk of spoilage, as well as the space and location of storage in the fridge. [14]


On occasion, the top of the bag can turn over while pouring, causing the milk to spill. Spillage can be avoided by cutting a secondary hole at the other side of the bag for air intake, by pinching the top of the bag while pouring, or by using a pitcher with a lid to keep the milk bag in place.[ citation needed ]

Milk bags cannot easily be sealed once open, although some consumers fold over the spout and use clips to help maintain freshness. Also, some companies use common single-ply LDPE bag which is easy to pierce and tear, and must be handled and transported with care to avoid product losses and messes.

Environmental concerns

While milk bags use less plastic than standard plastic bottles or jugs, empty bags are often not accepted when mixed with other plastics. [15] In Canada, where recycling services are municipally or regionally managed, milk bags may not always be recycled. In some municipalities milk bags are required to be discarded as garbage [16] and in others they are recyclable. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

Milk White liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals

Milk is a nutrient-rich liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals, including breastfed human infants before they are able to digest solid food. Early-lactation milk is called colostrum, which contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system and thus reduces the risk of many diseases. It holds many other nutrients, including protein and lactose. Interspecies consumption of milk is not uncommon, particularly among humans, many of whom consume the milk of other mammals.


A bag-in-box or BiB is a container for the storage and transportation of liquids. It consists of a strong bladder, usually made of several layers of metallised film or other plastics, seated inside a corrugated fiberboard box.

Beer bottle

A beer bottle is a bottle designed as a container for beer. Such designs vary greatly in size and shape, but the glass commonly is brown or green to reduce spoilage from light, especially ultraviolet.

Container-deposit legislation

Container-deposit legislation is any law that requires the collection of a monetary deposit on beverage containers at the point of sale and/or the payment of refund value to the consumers. When the container is returned to an authorized redemption center, or retailer in some jurisdictions, the deposit is partly or fully refunded to the redeemer. It is a deposit-refund system.

Plastic bag Type of container made of thin, flexible, plastic film, nonwoven fabric, or plastic textile

A plastic bag, poly bag, or pouch is a type of container made of thin, flexible, plastic film, nonwoven fabric, or plastic textile. Plastic bags are used for containing and transporting goods such as foods, produce, powders, ice, magazines, chemicals, and waste. It is a common form of packaging.

Bin bag Disposable bag used to contain solid waste material

A bin bag, rubbish bag, garbage bag, bin liner, trash bag or refuse sack is a disposable bag used to contain solid waste. Such bags are useful to line the insides of waste containers to prevent the insides of the receptacle from becoming coated in waste material. Most bags today are made out of plastic, and are typically black, white, or green in color.

Glass milk bottle

Glass milk bottles are glass bottles used for milk and are generally reusable and returnable. Milk bottles are used mainly for doorstep delivery of fresh milk by milkmen: retail store sale is available in some regions. After customers have finished the milk they are expected to rinse the empty bottles and leave it on the doorstep for collection, or return it to the retail store. The standard size of a bottle varies with location, common sizes are pint, quart, Litre, etc.

Jug Container used to hold liquid

A jug is a type of container commonly used to hold liquids. It has an opening, sometimes narrow, from which to pour or drink, and has a handle, and often a pouring lip. Jugs throughout history have been made of metal, and ceramic, or glass, and plastic is now common.

Plastic milk container

Plastic milk containers are plastic containers for storing, shipping and dispensing milk. Plastic bottles, sometimes called jugs, have largely replaced glass bottles for home consumption. Glass milk bottles have traditionally been reusable while light-weight plastic bottles are designed for single trips and plastic recycling.

Reuse Using an item again after it has been used, instead of recycling or disposing

Reuse is the action or practice of using an item, whether for its original purpose or to fulfil a different function. It should be distinguished from recycling, which is the breaking down of used items to make raw materials for the manufacture of new products. Reuse – by taking, but not reprocessing, previously used items – helps save time, money, energy and resources. In broader economic terms, it can make quality products available to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.

Recycling in Canada

This article outlines the position and trends of recycling in Canada. Since the 1980s, most mid to large municipalities in most provinces have recycling programs. As of 2012, Canada has a recycling rate around 26.8%

Tetra Pak Swedish-Swiss ultinational food packaging and processing company

Tetra Pak is a Swedish-Swiss multinational food packaging and processing company with head offices in Lund, Sweden and Pully, Switzerland. The company offers packaging, filling machines and processing for dairy, beverages, cheese, ice cream and prepared food, including distribution tools like accumulators, cap applicators, conveyors, crate packers, film wrappers, line controllers and straw applicators.

Square milk jug

The square milk jug is a variant of the plastic gallon container of milk commonly sold in the United States. The design was introduced in the summer of 2008 and is marketed as environmentally friendly because of the shape's advantages for shipping and storage.

Ecologic Brands, Inc. is an Oakland, California-based company that designs and manufactures bottles from recycled cardboard and newspaper.

GreenBottle Ltd was the manufacturer of sustainable, paper-based liquids packaging. In 2017, Ecologic Brands Inc.,based in Manteca California, purchased the assets of the former GreenBottle.

Reusable packaging is manufactured of durable materials and is specifically designed for multiple trips and extended life. A reusable package or container is “designed for reuse without impairment of its protective function.” The term returnable is sometimes used interchangeably but it can also include returning packages or components for other than reuse: recycling, disposal, incineration, etc. Typically, the materials used to make returnable packaging include steel, wood, polypropylene sheets or other plastic materials.

Plastic-coated paper is a coated or laminated composite material made of paper or paperboard with a plastic layer or treatment on a surface. This type of coated paper is most used in the food and drink packaging industry.

Package handle Packaging component

Package handles, or carriers, are used to help people use packaging. They are designed to simplify and to improve the ergonomics of lifting and carrying packages. Handles on consumer packages add convenience and help facilitate use and pouring. The effect of handles on package material costs and the packaging line efficiencies are also critical. A handle can be defined as “an accessory attached to a container or part for the purpose of holding or carrying.” Sometimes a handle can be used to hang a package for dispensing or use.

Packaging waste

Packaging waste, the part of the waste that consists of packaging and packaging material, is a major part of the total global waste, and the major part of the packaging waste consists of single-use plastic food packaging, a hallmark of throwaway culture. Notable examples for which the need for regulation was recognized early, are "containers of liquids for human consumption", i.e. plastic bottles, tetrapaks and the like. In Europe, the Germans top the list of packaging waste producers with more than 220 kilos of packaging per capita.

Yellow sack

In Germany and Austria, the term yellow bag refers to a thin, yellowish transparent plastic bag, in which, in the context of local waste disposal, any waste made of plastic, metal or composite materials can be handed in. Depending on the agreement with the cities and municipalities, it may also be possible to use a 'yellow bin'. Yellow bags or yellow bins are part of the Dual System in the German waste management industry.


  1. Washburn, Devin; Sumar, Sai. "What's up with Bagged Milk?". Lucky Peach. Lucky Peach. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 Kelly, Cathal (2010-02-04). "So we drink milk from bags. Does that make us weird?". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
  3. Heydari, Anis (January 2, 2020). "Here's why milk comes in bags in parts of Canada". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  4. "The Snippit". Tangibles Ltd.
  5. L-2834517,00.html On the relationship between buying milk and socioeconomic status Orna Yefet Published: 08.12.03
  6. Knesset Eli Yishai raised gallon of milk to protest the price hike, Ynet, January 31, 2005
  7. Product Description Coffee Milk, Seoul Milk Website, February 16, 2021
  8. SEDESOL, Liconsa (2012-04-27). "Liconsa". Sedesol. Mexico.
  9. Chertoff, Emily (2012-08-01). "The Surprising History of the Milk Carton". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  10. Blades, Hollye (2008-06-09). "Pinta goes green as supermarkets offer shoppers the chance to buy milk in a bag". The Times. London.
  11. Neate, Rupert (2008-06-09). "Milk in bags hits Sainsbury's shelves". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  12. Wallop, Harry (2010-02-24). "Milk in a bag at Sainsbury's". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  13. White, Kevin (2014-11-07). "Müller set to review future of Milk & More doorstep deliveries". The Grocer. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  14. Nosowitz, Dan (2015-10-20). "What's The Point Of Milk That Comes In Plastic Bags?". Modern Farmer . Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  15. "Can I Recycle Plastic Bags in the Recycling Bin?". Plastics Make it Possible. 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  16. "City of Ottawa - Recycling and Garbage - Milk Bags". Retrieved 2015-11-02.

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