How Have Milk Containers Changed Over the Last Century?


Quick Answer

Glass milk bottles were replaced by disposable cartons made of waxed paper in the 1950s, followed by plastic jugs with caps and handles in the 1980s. In some areas of the world, including Ontario, Hungary and South Africa, plastic bags became common milk containers for the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Full Answer

Glass milk bottles were introduced in the United States in the late 1800s. Before this invention, individuals used personal containers, typically made of metal, to purchase fresh milk from local dairy farmers. The containers were various shapes and sizes, and many lacked lids or covers to protect the milk from contaminants. Milk producers filled the glass bottles prior to delivery and covered the tops with foil or cardboard, providing a safe and convenient alternative to past methods.

The round reusable glass bottle was commonplace in households throughout America until the square paper carton took its place in the 1950s. Ideas for a paperboard carton with a built-in spout were around as early as 1910, but the containers were not commercially produced until the 1930s. It took two more decades before the gable-topped cartons were widely accepted in the United States. Early paper cartons were topped with a wax coating, while later versions integrate plastic coating.

Plastic jugs with removable lids and handles appeared in the 1980s in most of America, making it easier to purchase milk by the gallon. These containers hold gallons and half-gallons, and they may be clear, white or yellow in color.

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