What is more environmentally sound? Having less packaging altogether, but that packaging cannot be recycled (e.g. the new Waitrose milk bags, or those Kenco coffee bags) or a larger amount of packaging which can be reused/ recycled (plastic milk bottles/ glass coffee jars)?
Personally, I would vouch for less packaging - when you see the dismal rate of recycling (and vitriol towards those that do!!) and the fact that the recycled materials have to be transported half way across the world and sorted to be of any use to anyone, I suppose not having the issue in the 1st place is the better option??
Almost everything can be recycled but it depends on both the consumer having the motivation, and the cost of the actual collection and processing.
Milk bags can physically be recycled, but there is not an economic benefit of doing so at this time. Their use prevents unmotivated consumers from chucking normal plastic bottles in the bin, so on balance, they are a good thing.
We exclusively use milk bags now and they are so much nicer than bottles. I religiously recycled bottles for 2 years (collecting them in my garden, chasing after the ones the wind whipped up, and then driving to Sainsbury's every few weeks to dispose of the manky, mould infesting, boaky things.
I'm sure that the environmental costs of bags are less than those of bottles, when you take into account the ones that are just binned. I imagine if bag use were more popular, it would be economically viable to collect and recycle them.
Ah, see, the bags say on the back 'not recycled currently', so I believed them! I thought it was due to them being multi-layer laminates of all sorts of plastics. I've switched to the milk bags for when I get an Ocado shop, but will still be getting plastic bottles for most of my milk, from the farm shop - a whole different issue, I suppose; local (well, this county) milk in plastic bottle, or bag o' milk from goodness knows how far? So many things to consider.
The little cat food pouches are another thing that always annoyed me in terms of their (I thought) non-recyclability, but my cat didn't care about the environment and refused to consider tinned food
Reduce > reuse > recycle. It's about the only thing with waste that's consistently true - carting coffee about in thin plastic bags is going to be better than all the fuel needed to transport glass and the plastic lids which usually don't get recycled.
Some places are running plastic collection schemes eg Streatham Sainsburys - so as well as recycling plastic bags there and plastic bottles in my orange bags (actually any clean type 1 and 2 plastic is OK according to the council when I asked, but no extra type 5 thanks even though some bottles are made of it), all other plastic packaging I can dispose of in the Sainsbo's car park.
Not sure whether it gets recycled and probably a fair proportion goes to CHP, but it's all an improvement over landfill.
I was chatting to a recycling officer of a major metropolitan borough the other day, and I asked him about whether things that the consumer puts in recycling actually gets recycled. He said that it was over 95%, so efforts are not wasted.