Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The mystique of milk bags

The mystique of milk bags

By Chelia Blendy
The Daily Magi
November 20, 2068

Milk bags are plastic bags that carry milk. They are usually stored in a pitcher or jug with one of the corners cut off to allow for pouring. A typical milk bag contains approximately 11⁄3 litres of milk in North America and 1 litre of milk in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

In some parts of Canada, milk comes in bags. They are sold in central and eastern Canada, but not in western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) and Newfoundland and Labrador. Three bags are sold together in a larger bag containing a total of 4 litres of milk. The bags are not sold individually, and are either not labeled at all or labeled with only the expiry date, the lot number and sometimes the type of milk contained in the bag. The three-bag 4 litre package is the largest normally sold at retail, with the lowest unit price. Some convenience store chains offer 4-litre plastic jugs instead of milk bags, even in eastern Canada.

Two accessories are commonly associated with Canadian milk bags: pitchers and bag openers. The key-shaped bag opener with a clip and a magnet was invented in Toronto in 1979. These bag openers are a common type of refrigerator magnet, although the bags can be opened with scissors.

Milk bags were also common in the Soviet Union, and other Eastern bloc countries, such as East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Bulgaria. They remain popular in the Baltics (e.g. Estonia) and some other Eastern European countries, where they may also be seen used for packaging yogurt. A resurgence of milk bags is beginning in Britain amid concerns that plastic bottles aren't being recycled. Milk bags were also used in Australia (Greater Shepparton, Victoria), in the late 1990s, distributed by Shepparton-based dairy company Ducats. Some dairies in the United States used the bags in the 1980s, but today are confined mainly to regional convenience store chains with in-house dairies such as Kwik Trip in the Upper Midwest and other boutique dairies.

In the United Kingdom, Sainsburys began a pilot experiment on distributing milk in bags in 2008 in conjunction with Dairy Crest. It was originally targeted at 35 stores at the same price as a regular 2-imperial-pint (1.1 l) plastic bottle of milk, the product was expanded through the North of England nationwide in 2010 at which point the bags retailed at a discounted price compared to traditional containers.

In the UK the bags are usually used in conjunction with a specialized plastic jug. The bag fits snugly inside the jug, one corner of the bag is secured under a bar at the front of the jug, and as the lid is closed the bag is pierced and a spout slides into the hole, allowing the milk to be easily poured and maintaining freshness. Doorstep deliveries in the United Kingdom are normally associated with traditional glass milk bottles, but the Dairy Crest/Milk and More service also deliver milk bags, and sell Jug-It brand plastic jugs specially designed to hold the milk bags.

In Mexico, assistance programs and prior welfare and government social programs distribute milk in bags (one litre per bag) at very low prices.

Milk bags use less plastic than traditional milk jugs and are placed in reusable plastic pitchers. The bags themselves can also be washed out and re-used to carry sandwiches, or to freeze food (using a twist tie or rubber band for closure).

They contain less plastic than a milk jug, causing less environmental harm than milk jugs. Milk bags are more ideal from an environmental standpoint than paper milk cartons or glass milk bottles.

When pouring, the top of the bag can topple over, causing the milk to spill. Spillage can be avoided by cutting a secondary hole at the other side of the bag for air intake, by pinching the top of the bag while pouring, or by using a pitcher with a lid to keep the milk bag in place. Milk bags cannot easily be sealed once open, although some consumers fold over the spout and use clips to help maintain freshness.

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