I spent 10 minutes staring at milk in the grocery store this morning.
Ten minutes worth of dilemmas:
Soy or dairy? Is soy milk more environmentally friendly than dairy milk?
This article explores the issue. Soy is supposedly better in terms of fossil fuel energy consumption. However, soy milk still has many downfalls which are discussed in the article.
Organic or conventional?
This could be a completely separate topic of its own so I am not going to elaborate. There are pros and cons to each side. Personally I am in favour of individual “Forest Gardening.” Forest gardening is a leap forward from industrial systems but it requires everyone to participate. For more information I recommend this free documentary: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/farm-for-the-future/
Avoiding the plastic lid?
The plastic lid was my main concern. Plastic can only be down-cycled. Also, once created… plastic will last for many years. Plastic lids, specifically, are consumed by wildlife. On the remote island called “Midway,” Albatross birds are directly affected by plastic lids. Plastic lids are a serious issue. Unfortunately, ALL of the 2L milk products had a plastic lid. When did this happen?!?!?
1L or 2L?
Do I buy two 1L cartons to avoid the plastic lid? If so, then this is more carton packaging per litre of milk. To make things worse, sometimes the cartons are lined with plastic.
By the end of this experience I was thinking, the average consumer just doesn’t have time for these dilemmas. I wish for manufacturers who are responsible and produce as sustainably as possible.
What is the best decision? I still don’t have an answer. However, instead of staring at the aisle trying to make an impossible decision, I think we should pressure companies to abandon plastic lids, a solution!
Almost one year ago I emailed a soy milk company. The soy milk companies claim to care, so I figured they would understand my concerns:
So Good: “Canada’s leading soy beverage brand, empowers consumers to make smart choices for a healthy lifestyle.”
Silk: “We have a strong commitment to our customers, and we want to know what you think. Please share any comments or questions you may have about our products, Web site, promotions, or company.”
So Nice: Project So Nice – Buy foods with less packaging “Choose the food item that has less packaging to it as there’s less waste to recycle or put into the garbage”
My email included:
“If I purchase your soy milk and soy creamer, I will unnecessarily discard 8 plastic bottle caps per month. 96 bottle caps per year for one person.”
I spoke about plastic lids in terms of ocean pollution and the negative consequences to wildlife (Source).
The company response included:
We use plastic lids on our beverages in order to maintain product integrity and help extend shelf life. Also, this type of closure has been proved to be consumers’ preference over gable top closures.
We suggest contacting your local recycling agency and encouraging them to start accepting these lids in their program.
We are always looking for ways to reduce our footprint. For information on how we are doing this in other areas of our business, please visit our website.
Please do let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.
The email was very friendly, and I did have other questions and concerns, so I carried on:
- I asked how long the shelf life was extended by using plastic lids.
- I suggested that consumers may be attracted to a more “environmentally friendly package.”
- I stressed that reducing is much more effective than recycling. This included three main points. First, recycling consumes energy and produces pollutants which could otherwise be avoided by reducing. Second, plastic is only down-cycled, never recycled. This transition to lower quality plastic means that its chemical composition cannot be changed again; making it destined for a landfill. Third, recycling is an industry, therefore the companies require profit. Some plastics are not economical to down-cycle because the low quality plastic is simply not valuable.
- I said, “While consumer convenience is a laudable goal, the price should not be environmental damage. Both consumer happiness and environmental sustainability goals can and should be achieved.”
The company failed to respond. They don’t plan to respond, unless they are almost a year behind in email.
Regarding their concerns about consumer preference, it is interesting to note that a quick internet search reveals people who are upset about plastic caps… not happy about it. I’ve never heard anyone say, “wow, how did we ever live without plastic lids?” Have consumers even noticed a difference with shelf life? I even know people who have difficulty opening the lids.
One company has decided to start using bioplastic. Is plastic manufactured from sugar cane a solution? Sugar cane may be a renewable resource, but production is a form of agriculture and it is thus energy-demanding and land-consuming (scarce agricultural soil). The crop must be planted, protected from diseases and pests, then harvested, transported, and processed. I do not support alternative plastics as an option, why can’t we just reduce?
My goals include:
- avoiding plastic lids in my purchases
- reminding people that their individual choices matter! The soy milk company specifically said that they use plastic lids because consumers prefer them.
- contacting a number of organizations and people so that we can collectively express our concerns to all the companies (including dairy milk companies). This attempt will hopefully not be ignored. If you would like to be part of this email, please contact me (under “FAQ”) with your name, city of residence, and occupation/title (optional). Maybe it will also be necessary to contact CEOs directly.