Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Milk Jug for a Green Earth

A simple change to the design of the gallon milk jug, adopted by Wal-Mart and Costco, seems made for the times. The jugs are cheaper to ship and better for the environment, the milk is fresher when it arrives in stores, and it costs less.

The company estimates this kind of shipping has cut labor by half and water use by 60 to 70 percent. More gallons fit on a truck and in Sam’s Club coolers, and no empty crates need to be picked up, reducing trips to each Sam’s Club store to two a week, from five — a big fuel savings. Also, Sam’s Club can now store 224 gallons of milk in its coolers, in the same space that used to hold 80.
I like it. But I wonder, why does the milk need to be refrigerated at all? In other countries they sell milk in the same boxes that soy milk is sold in. They sit on the shelf without refrigeration and can last a lot longer without going bad. I am not quite sure what they have to do to the milk to allow it to be stored this way, but I would think that those boxes would be even better for the environment.

And if they are redesigning the milk carton to minimize material usage, how about doing the same for the milk's partner: the cereal box? I wrote about this before, but I think they need to ditch the cardboard box, make the plastic a bit stronger and add a ziploc top to the plastic bag. Get on that next, Wal-Mart.

via NY Times


Rebelfish said...

In Europe, they've got two types of milk:
-Organic, which is processed and stored and tastes just like our organic milk
-the carton milk, which is ultra-pasteurized, doesn't need to be refrigerated until opened, sometimes sweetened, and I can't stand it on anything except cereal or in baking

I know, it makes milk a more carbon-intensive product, but I'll give up my car before I give up my normal milk. (Okay, not a fair deal, since I live in a city and have already done that.)

Kudos to the stores for improving on the packaging though. And some hippie or discount companies are switching to just bags.

Audacious Epigone said...

Off-brand labels have used bags for years (link's to a picture). Besides Total, that's all I stock my cabinets with.

Fat Knowledge said...

Rebelfish + AE,

I guess it is the ultra-pasteurization that allows it to be at room temp. And I guess that this impacts the taste and chemical properties in ways that make it less desirable.

As for the "just bag" packaging, thanks for the links.

I think that is a step in the right direction, but neither looks like it has a built in Ziploc top. So you are forced to either put another plastic bag with a ziploc top, or put the rubberband on it and hope it doesn't go stale very quickly. I am thinking something like this.

JeremyGood said...

Horizon Dairy sells little 8-oz juice box type milks for kids that are UHT-processed for longer shelf life (non-refrigerated).

From Wikipedia: Ultra-high temperature processing or (less often) ultra-heat treatment (both abbreviated UHT) is the partial sterilization of food by heating it for a short time, around 1-2 seconds, at a temperature exceeding 135°C (275°F), which is the temperature required to kill spores in milk.[1] The high temperature also reduces the processing time, thereby reducing the spoiling of nutrients. The most common UHT product is milk, but the process is also used for fruit juices, cream, yoghurt, wine, soups, and stews.[1]UHT milk was invented in the 1960s, and became generally available for consumption in 1970s.[2]

UHT milk has a typical shelf life of six to nine months, until opened. It can be contrasted with HTST pasteurization (high temperature/short time), in which the milk is heated to 72°C (161.6°F) for at least 15 seconds.

Fat Knowledge said...


Good to know, thanks.

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