Artists for Responsible Packaging?

Where are Christo and Jeanne-Claude when we need them? Our school lunchrooms and trash cans are full of drink pouches. How can we call attention to the waste created by this packaging? A Christo wrapping is needed!

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have famously shrink-wrapped Germany's Reichstag, and surrounded Miami islands in pink polypropane. They hung an orange nylon curtain across Rifle Gap in Colorado's Rockies. Why don't they start collecting empty Capri Sun pouches and stapling them together? They'd have enough material to wrap a school in no time, and at no cost to their C.V.J. Corporation.

"What is CAPRI SUN packaging made from? Is it recyclable? CAPRI SUN pouches are polyester reverse-side printed to aluminum then laminated to polyethylene (a plastic polymer). Unfortunately, this packaging is not recyclable."
Thanks for that, Kraft!

When will Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen create a giant soft sculpture Go-Gurt squeeze tube? The pair has created large public sculptures with school lunchy themes, including the Spoonbridge and Cherry at Minneapolis' Walker Art Gallery, the Typewriter Eraser in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Torn Notebook at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Back in the Sixties they made giant vinyl BLT sandwiches, soft sculpture popsicles out of neon-colored fake fur, and scary four-foot french fries dumping out of a fast food sack. Go-Gurt, Yoplait's unit-of-use no-spoon-needed yogurt is far more disturbing than four-foot french fries.

Many brands market unit-of-use stick-pack (squeeze tube) yogurts now. The packaging is made from a linear low-density polyethylene/polyester structure of high barrier plastic film. Besides being non-recyclable, Yoplait Go-Gurt packaging is misleading. The tall squeeze tube contains only 2.25 ounces of heavily-sweetened yogurt, compared with a normal six-ounce yogurt container. You haven't truly lived until you've eaten lunch in a room full of kids glurping and slurping out of plastic tubes and arguing whether Shrek tastes better than Scooby-Doo. You better believe we say thanks, or something else, to General Mills for that experience!

Whether spanning the globe, covering the earth, or wrapping the school, artists might inspire us to try zero-waste lunching. We could use the Hi-C juice boxes discarded in one school lunchroom to reconstruct the late Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty . The individual-use aseptic cartons from juice, organic milk, and soy milk will be around in the landfills almost as long as Smithson's basalt stones in the Great Salt Lake.

Many students now bring Horizon Organic milk in aseptic boxes in their lunch box. Horizon Organic's FAQ website explains the packaging:

How are your Single Serve Milks packaged?
Single serve milks are packaged in aseptic tetrapaks and unopened will keep at room temperature up to seven months or until the date code. The milk is pasteurized using UHT or ultra-high temperature process which is similar to UP or ultra-pasteurization, in which the milk is heated to >280° F for 2-3 seconds, but packaged in a sterile environment thus extending its shelf life. The package itself is durable, lightweight, convenient for transport, and uses low energy and few materials. It is recyclable at any local program that accepts aseptic packages.

Sounds great, except that local programs don't accept aseptic packages for recycling. The Aseptic Packaging Council touts that 12 million U.S. households have access to a curbside recycling program that accepts the paper-and-foil juice boxes. That's only about 8 % of U.S. households.

According to Obviously.com:

The square boxes used for liquids are called "Aseptics", the most common brand of which is "Tetra Pak". Aseptics are made from complex layers of plastic, metal and paper. The aseptic industry has spent millions in public education on the issue of aseptic recycling, including distribution of classroom guides and posters like "Drink Boxes are as Good on the Outside as They are on the Inside" and "A Day in the Life of a Drink Box". The actual recycling process, unfortunately, is very expensive and awkward, and is therefore only available in a very few places. Coca-Cola maintains a list of aseptic recyclers, call 1-800-888-6488 for information. Because of the difficulties, only an insignificant fraction of aseptic packages are currently recycled.

That phone number is business hours only at Minute Maid. You can find out if your community has a recycling program for these containers by going to the Aseptic Packaging Council website and clicking the link for Recycling Programs. No Texas communities appear on the list.

My blood pressure is really great this week, so I'm not going to discuss how large an assemblage the late Louise Nevelson could have made from the plastic Lunchables containers. The packages have the recycling symbol on the bottom with the word "Other". Your community website will note which numbers of plastics can be recycled. "Other" is not a number! In North Texas you can check the plastics accepted in your community's program at Time to Recycle.

We need a new Andy Warhol to help us understand just how much unrecyclable waste is involved in Campbell Soup At Hand microwavable single serving cans, as well as the similar Chef Boyardee Mini Bites microwavable single serving pasta products advertised for kids. Those nuke-in-a-bowl products are marked for recycling HDPE Other (high density polyethelyne). Packaging Digest reports the rigid white plastic is a combination of plastic resins with a metal rim and pull-ring end. It's described as being coinjection-molded with high-density polyethylene, polypropylene and a barrier layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol...Topping the bowl is a metal lid fitted with a metal pull ring that reads "remove metal lid before microwaving." Over that, a red plastic overcap with four vent holes snaps onto the bowl.

Let's create some works of art for waste-free lunchrooms. Think vacuum insulated lunch jars and bottles. Please!

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

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