Meeting With Our Local Dairy Company

Me and a couple friends (one came this time round) I met on the Zero Waste PEI group got together to have a meeting with our local dairy company. (They want their name to remain silent on this article).

Our main concern was about the waste that the milk cartons they sell, generate. The tetra packs, are recyclable on PEI, but recyclable or not, it still creates waste one way or another and resources for processing and recycling. We had a nice chat about how much the company has improved its energy efficiency over the recent years with upgrades. Though, natural gas is used instead of oil, it would be nice if a better source of energy was used.

Firstly, we questioned about bringing the milk man back. The response was that the demand was lacking. People do not trust others as they used to, “everyone trusted the milkman”. I myself, if was being delivered milk at my door, would have to make sure I am home to refrigerate it once delivered. Many homes, besides myself, may not have someone home to receive the milk right away, and no one is going to leave their door open either for security issues. Bringing the milk man back in these days is more problematic. The distribution area is also much larger than it was before. These are some of the issues brought up. We need to find solutions or another way.

Secondly, we talked about the bottles themselves. They is not set up to handle a different size container. They would have to overhaul and rebuild the production line basically. They would need to outsource bottle cleaning/sanitizing. No one is in that business close by that they are aware of. The amount of energy to go into the production of using bottles, cleaning and transporting would rise. If a grocery store took on selling the bottles, they could/would need to set up for bottle returns. More problems needing solutions to keep moving forward.

Thirdly, we talked about a third party selling the milk in the large recyclable bags (the kind dairy bars use to fill the ice cream machines) and dispense to customers as a refill program, lets say at the Farmer’s Market. The company themselves could not go about selling the product as they would then be competing with other stores such the grocery chains. A third party would be needed. Did you know that milk prices in Canada are regulated like gas prices are!? I would like to see a dairy farmer do this at the Farmer’s Market themselves, all set up with a refill station or bottles that are returnable.

So there are a lot of issues at hand, which means lots of doors are open. I later sent an email (sometimes I need time to think things through more, I can be slow on the spot) asking about doing a test pilot project at one of their stores (at Read’s Corner). Start small, right!

Something that was mentioned was very alarming to me; school milk. Children receive milk orders at the schools which come in the 250 ml milk cartons. Apparently the children have a real hard time opening the milk cartons (the carton flap one spreads open and then pull out to drink out of) and end up making a mess by using scissors to cut open the carton, causing particle mess and spillage. The teachers are requesting for the addition of the plastic cap and pull tab to these cartons for the kids! I was near speechless when this came up. My thoughts now are, where are the teachers to help open these cartons for the handful of individuals who need the help. The kids need to be taught how to open them. 3 of my kids receive these cartons and do not have a problem, and if they do, the teacher was there to help. Adding these pull tabs will unwisely add a convenience that an individual should learn, let alone the extra waste created, single use plastic.  Now I am not being hateful to the teachers, they are amazing in so many ways, but really, 3-5 seconds to help open a carton of milk. Choosing the easy way out is not the way to go. I mentioned in my later email about my displeasure about this situation and stated that maybe a perforated tab to push in or pull out of the carton to create an opening may be a better option.

Early in the conversation at the meeting, there was  talk about a company in BC was doing a test pilot project with bottles. I have not yet read into it, but will in the near future. Our suggestions will be brought up to the team.

We also talked about butter, cheese and ice cream.

  • Butter. They use a foil wrap (plastic type foil), it is considered waste. They once tried paper, but the paper flaps on the side do not stay put, leaving a bad seal. They are unaware of any other options. We suggested some sort of wax wrap, biodegradable.
  • Cheese needs to be completely sealed to stay fresh. There are no other options known of for wrapping. Again, we talked about a wax wrap, biodegradable. (Air tight is a must though).
  • Ice Cream. I mentioned that the ice cream containers used to be recyclable. The containers were switched a couple years ago to a wasteful type; cardboard with a plastic coating. If the containers were recyclable, or reusable for something else around home that would be a better option. I asked about having steel containers and have them returnable, but there is concerned about the price. If the price goes up for ice cream because the type of container is more expensive, competitors would have the upper hand basically.

My thoughts, were highlighted in bold through the article, briefly. I truly believe that a big company like this one can certainly pull this off. I know there are barriers, but with time I believe they can overcome them. We and the environment need them too! Certainly we can have third parties selling milk in glass bottles and refills, but this company is so big and there is so much recyclable material produced from them, the dent in reducing dairy waste with the third party would be so small; but worth the try.

2 responses on “Meeting With Our Local Dairy Company”

  1. I love that you met with them!! Way to go! It sound like they were giving you a laundry list of reasons why they currently aren’t doing these things you suggested.. but in doing so they gave you and your friends lots of insight into the way things are run within the company. Of course plastic is cheaper, that’s why it’s so prevalent. The tide is changing though, and people are starting to be willing to pay more for a product they believe in.

    Thank you for sharing all of this info!

  2. Hi Rachel-
    Sounds like an interesting meeting. Something I’d like to see the government do is put an added price on items that would cover their afterlife. For instance, cloth diapers would be have a MUCH lower price than disposables (for instance, for a $30 pkg of disposables, the price would go up to at least $100). Anything environmentally easy to get rid of would not have the tax applied; anything single use (diapers, Swiffers, cookies in the plastic rigid containers) would have a huge tax applied to cover disposal. Your ice cream solution (above) is a perfect example – the stainless steel containers, returnable to the store, would end up being cheaper than the ice cream in non-reusable containers. So, the ‘competition’ would end up being more expensive, not less.
    Anyway, thanks for what you have been doing – we just need more people doing more for the environment, and we need to change our habits.

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