Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Glass vs. Cardboard

   I recently complained to the makers of my soymilk that
I wanted them to use more environmentally friendly products.
It now makes me want to get a Soyabella to make my own!!

This is their response:


Dear Kevin,

I have to say it makes me very happy to know that people are actually
thinking about these issues. Most people don't come near to considering
the details of their consumption and, as they say, the devil IS in the
details. So be patient while I bombard you with details!

In choosing our packaging, we apply a Life Cycle Analysis/Assessment
(LCA). You might have heard the expression "cradle to grave" analysis.
It's all the same thing. The goal is to examine and measure every step
of the packaging process. Besides being a tool for manufacturers to
evaluate their processes, it can be a valuable tool for consumer to make
informed choices. LCA introduces the idea that recycling is not enough.
LCA follows the manufacture of a products from extraction of raw
material, through the manufacturing process, including energy and water
used, through its use and then through its disposal. Gaseous, liquid or
solid residues are all evaluated since all have a different impact on
the environment.

Apply this to glass bottles. Material must be mined, and heat generated
and water used to form the bottle. Waste is generated from this process.
You now have a bottle that is relatively heavy, relatively bulky and
breakable, requiring extra sturdy (more weight) cases to protect the
package. Shipping these empty bottles requires more space and hence more
fossil fuel and even more fuel is needed to ship the filled bottle. Of
course, the final product must be shipped in refrigerated trucks, adding
to the fuel and energy needed. Although the bottle's average re-use is
about five times, plenty of hot water and sterilization agents are
needed to cleanse it for the next use. Finally, when it's recycled, it's
easily turned back into glass and can even be used as a food grade
package again.

Organic Valley milk cartons ARE recyclable, but only in certain places.
You'll have to call your trash/recycling company and ask them if they
take the cartons. They might ask what they're made of and you can tell
them it's virgin, long-fibered paperboard sandwiched in micro-thin
Number 1 polyethelene. We use plastic polymer (#2, High Density
Polyethylene, HDPE) for our gallon-sized milk jugs. It is translucent
and has decent barrier properties (you have to keep the light away from
the milk). It's also tough but light and well suited for milk products
with a shorter shelf life. It is, however, a petroleum byproduct and has
waste problems.

Now that you're screaming STOP, STOP, too much information, I'll just
add that we're always searching for the best material to use in our
packaging, always testing new stuff, reconfiguring old stuff...anything
to lighten the footprint. Nevertheless I will make our packaging folks
in Research and Development aware of your plea, because they track all
suggestions assiduosly. If you have any further questions, or need
clarification on something, please let me know and I'll do my best to


Kimberly Kafka
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative
Consumer Relations ext 3367
kimberly.kafka at organicvalley.coop

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