Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I saw it on the news. . .

I saw it on the news this morning, so I figured the big story must've finally broken. ;o) I'm talking about the weird new milk jugs we've been getting from our local Sam's Club, of course.

(You may have forgotten, but I've written about the new milk jug design before. See, I'm weeks ahead of the New York Times!)

I have a feeling the story is available elsewhere, but this article in the NYT was the first place I found it online, thanks to good old Google.

The article makes it clear that we aren't the only ones to have had trouble with the jug design, but it also suggests that if you "tilt and pour"-- pivoting the jug on the tabletop-- you won't spill. Maybe we just aren't careful enough, but we still (sometimes) get those annoying tiny dribbles. If memory serves, it's easier to pour without spilling once the jug isn't quite so full. . . Anyway, if it weren't for the savings, I'd gladly continue buying milk in the good old-fashioned jugs. They just work better. But so long as the weirdo jugs are cheaper, that's what we'll be buying. And if this article is correct, the odd-ball jugs may become more and more difficult to avoid, even if you're willing to pay more for the old design.

At least the article (and the news story I saw on TV) explains why some companies have made this change. The new jugs stack more efficiently (without using milk crates, which have to be washed), so that fewer shipments are required. Fewer shipments saves money-- fuel, time, etc.

Donald suggested that they should switch to the Swedish milk carton, which is also rectangular (and therefore easily stackable), but which folds out to form more of a spout and is easier to pour. (If I'm not mistaken-- and I may be-- this type of carton is also called a "Tetra Brik".)

I think I have photos of them in my Flickr photostream. . . Yes, here they are!

Here's a basic carton, opened:


And here's the carton of "fil" in action:


I countered that because the Swedish carton is so small (1 liter instead of the gallon jugs we're used to), they'd either have to make the cartons larger (probably impractical for handling) or people'd have to buy more of them at a time-- which would equal more packaging, less savings.

He reminded me that milk cartons are (mostly) cardboard.

Hm. I imagine the cartons would have less of an environmental impact than plastic jugs, but I don't know if 3 or 4 1-liter cardboard cartons would weigh less than the jugs, so the shipping would still be less efficient. . . The jugs also have the benefit of a screw-on lid, which (I guess) makes the milk stay fresh longer. . .

Anyway, I doubt we're headed the way of cartons, here in the US. Not quite yet, anyway. We'll simply continue to make do with the "JUST TILT & POUR" jug.