What is this image of? Can you tell what is going on here?

I buy a lot of milk. A lot. I’ve been introduced as one of their best customers at my local farmer’s market. Though I’m not consuming any of it these days with Theo’s intolerance, I’m pretty sure my husband would throw out the “D” word if I suggested we give that up with beef. The fact that it is hypocritical we shall save for another post, but for now we have vowed to only purchase local cow products. I appreciate Straus, because they are a really great and innovative local company. Their community outreach, water reuse, non-gmo, and methane digester are all very impressive and even exciting. Many of their products come in reusable glass bottles and the result is a much tastier product. I once did a blind milk tasting in a cheese class and I was astonished how much of the carton you can taste in the other guys! The glass is great, but the plastic tops not so much. As you can see they really add up!

Its been one year since I sent my last box of milk tops to Straus. I was sending them almost weekly with a note about how much I wished they would switch the tops back to the recyclable or even biodegradable cardboard ones they used to have. I haven’t received an explanation as to why they changed, but alas the plastic still tops their glass bottled milk, cream, and half and half. I so appreciate that I can bring the bottle back and know that they will clean it and refill it, the ultimate in responsible packaging, but it seriously bothers me that they top these adorable glass bottles with a brightly colored plastic object that until recently I couldn’t be certain would actually be recycled. See thats the real hump about recycling – the products only get recycled IF your waste management can find a buyer for that recyclable item. Yes IF.

So last February I decided that my bi-weekly package of tops were not making enough of an impact and my frequent trips to the post office were not so responsible either. I vowed to continue to voice my opinion on my weekly market visit and to write both emails and physically with requests of a top change. Whether I asked at market or called with the question “how do I properly dispose of the plastic tops on your bottles” the response was always the same “we recycle them”. However when I took it further with a “how do you know that they are actually being recycled and not ending up in the landfill” the answers were a bit more fuzzy. No one really knows. So in addition to my questions I decided to hoard  my tops to send back all at once. Yes that is what this picture is. One year of one milk drinking family’s waste. Imagine if we drank from cartons or jugs, what would that look like?

On a much lighter and brighter note, during my weekly farmers market visit, the kind lady at the Straus booth informed me that now they take the tops back and have found someone to recycle them. They have found a business that wants to turn our old used tops into toothbrushes. Recycling is not really the answer especially when it comes to plastics, because it can only happen so many times before it ends up in the landfill, but its a small step in the right direction. I am pleased that they have at least taken the time to be somewhat responsible about the plastics they are contributing to the planet. I will still hope and request that they go back to the cardboard pull tops or some kind of foil/metal, but for now at least when I bring them back with my bottles I know that they are going on to a new life rather than going straight to the landfill.

I am not the first person to send my milk tops back, to complain about plastic injustice, or suggest a change, so this is in no way my achievement, however it is a clear reminder that every little bit helps. Enough voices have asked. Enough people have sent their plastic back. Enough requests have been made that this company has made a change to be more responsible. So if you think you can’t make a difference. If you think because you can’t do everything you shouldn’t do anything you are wrong. WRONG. Every little bit helps. So do what you can, don’t wait. Do it now.

One thought on “Top-less

  1. Strauss has a building in Petaluma by all of the car dealerships. When we test drove our electric car, I noticed their sign and started telling the salesman about Strauss’s sustainability efforts. He told me that the owner had purchased two electric cars from him! Beyond their glass bottles, they so skip the plastic appendages on their paper ice cream cartons, which I love. The toothbrushes made from recycled plastic tops and yogurt containers are actually pretty cool. I dislike many of their packaging practices, but really do appreciate their overall sustainability efforts!


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