Milk churns help Sheffield university cafes reduce plastic waste by over 87,000 bottles a year
The University of Sheffield is set to significantly reduce its plastic waste by 87,000 single-use bottles per year, by switching to milk churns from a local dairy farm to supply its cafes on campus.
The university has partnered with local dairy farm, Our Cow Molly, to supply is campus cafes with milk from stainless steel churns instead of single-use plastic bottles
Each churn holds around 22 pints of milk and can be washed, refilled and reused by the dairy farm significantly reducing single-use plastic use on campus
The project will remove 27,000 single-use plastic bottles per year in the initial trial and a further 60,000 once rolled out across all of the university’s cafes
The switch to churns will cut the carbon footprint of milk delivery to the University by over 65 per cent - equivalent to 6.5 tonnes of CO2 every year
Peter Anstess, Head of Retail at the University of Sheffield, said: “With 19 cafes and bars, the retail operation at the University serves over 6,000 people every day.
“This volume of purchasing brings a responsibility to source products that are high quality, local and sustainable. We have worked closely with Our Cow Molly for over five years which has seen the dairy become established as a key supplier across Sheffield and the milk churns are the next part of this collaboration.
“It's been especially encouraging to be part of such a strong collaboration with academics here at the University as together we have linked research and commerciality.”
The churns are delivered by Our Cow Molly’s local delivery teams and connected to specially-designed pumps in the University’s cafes, which dispense the milk ready to be used to make hot drinks.
The pumps have initially been installed in three of the University’s busiest cafes, which will result in a saving of 27,000 single-use plastic bottles a year. If the initial trial locations are successful, the University plans to roll out the milk pumps to the remainder of its outlets, reducing plastic waste by a further 60,000 bottles a year.
Eddie Andrew, Director of Our Cow Molly, said: “We attended a two day plastics conference where anyone with a good plastic saving idea was invited to get up and present it. The following day I saw Peter Anstess, Head of Retail at the University, and with an old milk churn and a Tetley’s hand pull demonstrated a very agricultural first version of our idea for reusable milk churns.
“Fast forward almost two years and to see this now developed into a fully-fledged circular system is fantastic. Thanks to the support of staff throughout the University, including Professor Duncan Cameron at the Institute for Sustainable Food for funding a prototype, this new project is now saving plastic waste every day and, most importantly, proving the concept works."
The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield undertook the initial research into the most sustainable way to deliver milk as part of an undergraduate research project and Higher Education Innovation Fund grant, the first to look at a bulk delivery model for milk.
Previous studies considered alternatives to plastic, such as cartons, or reusable glass bottles, but these are not practical for commercial business where large volumes of milk are being used.