The problems with the type of containers used for packaging gallons of milk in the U.S. was a subject of discussion, recently. The main one being the disposal of emptied containers. Another was the best way to decant milk from a gallon container. The foremost problem for those who recycle is temporary storage space.
If you’ve ever saved recyclable plastics for delivery to recycling drop points you’ve probably experienced the problem of accumulating plastic gallon milk containers in a limited space. They have this annoying tendency to take up quite a lot of space in a short space of time.
It turns out that, in Canada, people get their milk in plastic bags rather than in the containers made of plastic suitable for guitar picks that Americans find in their local High St moo juice shoppes. It’s very counter-intuitive, to be sure, if you consider the implications for shipping and handling, not to mention, end-use. Well, people in Canada have managed quite well with this type of milk packaging for years, thank you very much.
Bagged milk comes in a 3 litre size as opposed to the 1 gallon size Americans are accustomed to. You see, Canada is a more advanced society than America. They use the metric system, for one thing. People in America, albeit less anglophilic, prefer the barbaric, English units of measurement (length, weight, volume). So, straightaway, they are going to need a way to understand how much 3 litres yield in terms of English units. A litre is about a quart. So, a bag of milk is about 3/4 of a gallon at sea level.
Now if you’re going to measure the milk at sea level to verify that my estimate is indeed correct, be careful not to allow the bag to take on marine salt water and other possibly equally unsavory things, as that would undoubtedly have a qualitatively negative effect on the taste and bouquet of the milk. Instead of going to so much trouble, you might just take my word for it, unless you happen to live in a seaside villa, in which case, knock yourself out!
There’s a web site devoted to the subject of bagged milk here. If I may just quote from it:
I think the most irritating thing of all time (next to maybe Adam Sandler) is when youâ€™re in the middle of a conversation and you happen to mention milk bags, and the other person is like â€œWHAT IS A MILK BAG?â€, and you try to explain what it is, and how exactly it works but the concept is still a very hard one for them to grasp.
The reason for including this particular quote is, of course, to diss Adam Sandler.
This page, on the aforementioned website, shows you what a bag of milk looks like and how it’s served and stored. The image above is just one of several views that will help the curious become more acquainted and perhaps comfortable with the unfamiliar, yea, the downright strange concept of bagged milk.
What to do with the bag of milk
You figure if you open the bag of milk it’s going to be rather difficult to keep the liquid inside the bag or, otherwise, stop it from leaving the bag involuntarily. The way it works, actually, is that you place the bag in a pitcher (or ewer, as American crossword solvers would call it), cut a corner of the bag (preferably at the top) using something like the very handy Snippit plastic bag opener that conveniently doubles as a fridge magnet/conversation piece, and with that, you are ready to decant the milk simply by tipping the pitcher. Of course, there should be something nearby to decant the milk into, otherwise you might as well dispense with the pitcher.
But how do you close the bag?
Okay, so you’ve done all the decanting you can manage in one day. How do you close the bag? Well, that’s a good question, and a lot of people are asking that question, and it’s a question that deserves an answer, as a lot of questions do.
The thing is, the honest to goodness truth of the matter is that the Canadians are not as concerned about germs as Americans are. It’s well-known that they rarely bathe, after all. So, you know they just leave the bag unsealed in the pitcher (or ewer) and chuck the whole lot in the fridge, without a worry in the world.
As far as that goes, Americans have to put up with bottle caps that collect dry milk residue that winds up in your cereal or coffee or tea and no doubt carries a highly lethal dose of pathogens. Something to think about, eh? (Eh?, is Canadian for what?)
How can I drink straight from a bag?
Canadians wouldn’t even think of drinking from the bag even if they could. It’s really not their scene. It’s not their bag, even if it comes in a bag. On the other hand, it is inescapeable sociological fact that Americans compulsively drink milk straight from the bottle.
It’s a question of lifestyle which type of milk container is right for you. If you’ve cast your lot with the Canadians, then you must enjoy your milk from a bag carefully placed in a loudly-decorated ewer. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen to be on the “right side,” then you must have a sturdy container that can be tipped back and chugged down without making too much of a mess. Above all, it’s your call.
Consider, though, all the space saved when storing the bags for recycling. I’m not sure of the type of plastic used for bagging milk and whether it is recyclable or not, but it probably is far more environmentally friendly and less burdensome than the rigid plastic bottles.
If and when the day ever arrives when Americans can partake of this innovation in milk storage, it won’t be nanosecond too soon, I must say.