Plastic reduction challenge – Beverages

juice in glass bottles

Trying to reduce plastics in packaged food is an enormous challenge. Not only are there obvious plastics such as bottles and tubs, but also “hidden” plastics such as the lining in tin cans and tetrapaks.

In this post I’m going to look at plastic packaging of beverages, and alternatives I’ve found.

British BerkefeldWater. We rarely buy bottled water, instead preferring to filter tap water. We use Black Berkey purifiers fitted in a stainless steel British Berkefeld housing. (In the UK, I’ve found Kernowrat to have the best prices.) Fortunately, for those times when we do buy bottled water, there are still several brands available in glass bottles, such as some of the Highland Spring and Perrier lines. Mr Thrifty takes home-filtered water to work every day in a glass ex-Perrier bottle, which fits neatly into the centre console of George (our car).

Fruit & vegetables juices. Most juices are in tetrapaks, either shelf-stable or refrigerated. Don’t be fooled into thinking that refrigerated “waxed” cartons are plastic-free, because they’re not, and haven’t been in decades, apparently. Both refrigerated and shelf-stable tetrapak-type cartons are lined in plastic. There are a few juices available in glass jars, but they’re a lot more expensive than the tetrapak ones. Not even juice in glass bottles is completely plastic-free, however, as the metal lid used to seal the bottle is lined with plastic. But it’s the best store-bought alternative. I hope to experiment this summer with home-bottled fruit juices. In the photo above (l to r): Sunraysia organic carrot juice (750ml, £1.69 from Morrisons); Biona organic tomato juice (750ml, £2.04 from our food co-op); Rio d’Oro carbonated pear juice (750ml, 99p from Aldi); Dynamic Health black cherry juice concentrate (237ml [1422ml reconstituted], £2.08 from iHerb); Organic Village organic red grape juice (1L, £2.54 from our food co-op).

Douwe EgbertTea & coffee. Instant coffee is usually packaged in glass jars with plastic lids, though we buy Douwe Egberts coffee which comes in glass-lidded jars (though the seal is probably plastic). Coffee beans, alas, are always in a plastic-lined foil pouch. Tea is easy to find in cardboard boxes.

Soya and other non-dairy milks. These are always in tetrapaks, either shelf-stable or refrigerated — unlike juice, it’s impossible to find these in glass bottles, at least in this country. Fortunately, non-dairy milk is easy and quick to make at home; our favourite is cashew milk. In fact, we prefer it to soya milk, though I still make soya milk in my spiffy SoyQuick machine, so I can make tofu from the soya milk. Anyone else have a favourite homemade non-dairy milk?

soft drinks in glass bottlesSoft drinks (soda, squash, etc). These are typically in plastic bottles or aluminium cans. Like tetrapaks, aluminium drinks cans are also lined in plastic. We buy soft drinks occasionally; fortunately there are still some available in glass bottles, including Fentimans; Lorina traditional lemonade; and Belvoir cordials. The elderflower cordial we made last summer was delicious, and I hope to experiment with other homemade cordials this summer. Pictured above (l to r): Barr’s Original cream soda with raspberry (750ml, £1.49 from Waitrose); Bright coconut juice with pulp (290ml, 99p (I think) from Wai Yee Hong); le Marché Française sour cherry lemonade (1L, £1.39 from Aldi but sadly now packaged in plastic); Fever-Tree ginger ale (500ml, £1.30 from Waitrose); Taste the Difference apple & damson pressé (750ml, from Sainsbury’s); le Panaché de Saint-Omer shandy (250ml, £1.69 for 12 bottles from Morrisons & Sainsburys); Bottle Green Blossom Cottage lemon & lime leaf cordial (500ml, £1.15 from Asda).

Beer, cider & wine. Although some brands are packaged in plastic bottles/aluminium cans (beer & cider) and boxes containing plastic bags (box wine), most brands are available in glass bottles. Last autumn I made enough cider to last a year, and we hope to become mostly self-sufficient in wine this year.

I would be interested in hearing about beverages in glass bottles that are available in other countries… are they a challenge to find, or relatively easy?


  1. My fave homemade milk is almond. I just soak almonds with skins overnight, whizz them up with water in the vitamix then strain through a nut milk bag. No need for any sweeteners or plastic, yum.

  2. How much extra are you willing to pay for drinks in glass bottles?

    My favorite non dairy milk is chickpea milk- you make it the same way as soy milk/

  3. Hi PP — Drinks in glass bottles are a LOT more expensive than in tetrapaks… as an example, white or red grape juice in tetra is around 90p for a one litre carton, versus £4.17 (white) or £2.54 (red) for grape juice in glass bottles. I’m willing to pay that price for grape juice because I use it when making homemade country wine (i.e. wine made from fruit other than grapes), and it adds between 42p and 70p per bottle. The wine is still much cheaper to make than buy, especially if you compare it to bought organic wine. For drinking, the most I’ll pay for juice is around £2.50 for one litre; that compares to under £1 for cheap juice in tetra, to about £1.50-£2.00 for more premium juice in tetra.

    Never heard of making milk from chickpeas, but I’ll have to try that as I love chickpeas.

  4. My solution is I don’t buy juices, tetrapacks or not. As for bottles and jars, I bum them off my friends and relatives who waste money on buying everything premade in the glass jars. I score doubly then- I get the glass, but don’t have to pay a cent. And I just take what my friends and family would otherwise be throwing out.

  5. Hey – I have been boycotting plastic for a while and have sourced a whole range of plastic free products – you might find them useful – visit my blog for more

  6. Hi there,
    I’m just starting trying to source alternatives both from an environmental point of view and also to reduce exposure to parabens and styrene etcs which leach from some plastics. I love Fentiman’s and there is a large size bottle which I found that is more cost effective. I’m looking for cordials for diluting to replace our squash and I think it may be best just to juice fruit rather than buy the tetrapacks because it will work out cheaper sometimes. I’m new to all this so thanks for your blog and links, will learn from your work! Bottled coca cola is lovely and nicer than cans and I never buy fizzy juice in bottles anyway because it tastes different and flatter. There’s a bit of a movement for bottled cola as it comes from Mexico and uses sugar whereas cola in cans is from the USA and uses corn syrup. I actually found the bottled coca cola is cheaper at Tesco than the cans for a like for like number and that was a surprise. I’ve been surprised by how much nicer everything I’m buying is compared to the plastics and I suppose it is because it is a bit of a step up with the care taken in manufacture. The extra cost is something I think we just have to choose to take here as the cheap stuff is in plastic and where cosmetics are concerned the cheap stuff is full of dodgy chemicals. Do follow my blog and please pass on your knowledge where I get stuck. I’m all for following in the footsteps of others who’ve already walked this way. It seems to me we’ve been buying the equivalent of Primark food and so although we’ll have to be careful, food is something important and we are what we eat. The amount of plastic is shocking once one starts to pay attention and my wall is covered in the SPI code charts, plastic ID charts and more.

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