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Milk Bags, Organic and Deposits

Posted 2010-02-05 Tags: None

Kyle, Dawn and certain others were having a bit of discussion on the delivery of milk to people's houses in Ontario. The discussion basically centred around milk bags vs. glass milk jugs, but included discussions on "organic". It was interesting how dichotomous this discussion was.

Milk Bags vs. Jugs Summary

On the one hand, glass milk jugs seem like a great idea. They definitely use less, and are more re-usable. You can fill 'em up thirty or forty times on average. Milk bags seem like single use and that they have more waste associated with them. The problem is this: you can (and should) reuse your milk bags. The clear ones that actually contain milk can be snipped off at the top and used for freezer bags or sandwich bags. They're actually better as freezer bags than the freezer bags you buy - more washable, more durable. The containing bag is definitely a problem for most people; we keep ours and give them to a friend of the family that uses them to weave waterproof mats that get sent to third world countries. I really wish I had more information on how to do this effectively, but I barely have the information for us - we give ours to my mother-in-law. So this isn't really a good option for most people.

Glass bottles also have more cost associated with them for re-use and re-sterilization. Sterilization techniques (and I'm not counting organic ones here) tend to be relatively expensive, both in terms of price and ecological impact. The transportation of empties is a big waste of transportation resources. Plus, the glass is significantly heavier than the plastic, so to transport similar quantities of milk, you have to transport an increased amount of weight.

I think there's no clear cut answer here. Most people likely just throw all of their bags and bottles in the garbage, which makes them both roughly equally poor choices.

Organic

There was a minor side debate on the meaninglessness of the word "Organic". I think that at some point it meant something to be labelled organic here in Ontario, but it's a pretty useless label these days. It's really easy to get that label. And the word itself means nothing. Sure, these are organic - but so is cyanide. And gold. I wouldn't eat either of those things. Organic doesn't mean healthy.

A good substitution that you should look for instead of Organic is local. Try to buy food that's from less than 150 km away and you'll significantly cut down on your environmental impact and it'll probably be healthier, especially if you get stuff from more independent farms.

Deposits

The last thing that came up is the possibility of enforced deposits. Similar to how plastic bags from grocery stores now cost money (proven to reduce the number of plastic bags used), you could introduce steep deposits on containers for liquids. That would make it more likely that those liquid containers would be returned. I won't go into much more detail (this spawned quite an argument the last time it was brought up) but it's been shown to work in cities like Edmonton. I'm sure it could work here.