If you consume your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium each day, you probably have a carton or two of milk in your fridge. While the jug of milk may have a prominent place on your table, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about it. For most of us, gone are the days of the friendly milkman leaving icy cold bottles of fresh milk on our front step. Plastic jugs and cardboard containers have replaced the glass bottles of yesterday.
Over the years, milk cartons have not just stored our milk. They have served as drinking vessels in school lunches, alerted us to missing children, and been repurposed for crafting. Here are seven facts you may not know about the plastic milk carton.
1. It Tells You Where Your Milk Came From A wise shopper will always check the expiration date on a carton of milk before purchasing. But you may not realize what other information is located right there on the label.
Did you know that the code located near the expiration date on your carton tells you how far your milk has traveled? Look for numbers stamped onto your carton near the expiration date. They may look something like this: 06-407 or 01-234. Click here to type in your code at Where Is My Milk From? and find out where your milk came from. This will pull up a map and the locations of other nearby dairies as well. Other dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream carry these codes as well.
2. You Should Not Store it in the Refrigerator Door It can be tempting to keep your milk cartons in the door of your refrigerator for easy access. Some refrigerators come with shelves in the door that are just the perfect dimensions for those milk cartons. Unfortunately, this is not the best place to store your milk. Keep your milk on the interior shelves where it is colder to prevent spoiling. Refrigerate milk away from foods with strong odors to keep it from picking up other strong smells.
3. Stores Strategically Place It in the Rear You may have noticed grocery stores tend to keep milk and dairy cases in the very back of the store. This is not by accident. Delivery trucks indeed pull up to the rear of the store. Having dairy cases located in the back means refrigerated products spend less time out of refrigeration. Additionally, store planners know how likely we are to dash into the store for “just a carton of milk.” They also know how tempting it is to toss other items into our shopping baskets as we pass through. If you don’t want to leave with a whole cart when all you need is a jug of milk, keep your mental blinders on when making that trek to the dairy aisle.
4. It Won’t Be Recycled as another Milk Carton While plastic milk cartons are fully recyclable, not that many of them make their way into the recycling bin. Some estimates put the level of plastic cartons properly recycled at less than 30%. The ones that do make it to the recycling facility will not return as cartons for milk. FDA guidelines in the U.S. do not allow food packaging to be made from these recycled materials. This is due to concerns about contamination by other chemicals in the manufacturing process. Plastic milk cartons can be recycled into plastic bottles for non-food products, toothbrushes, plastic furniture, and toys. Furthermore, there are lots of neat ways you can recycle cartons for use in your own home!
5. You Can Use It in Gardening Those with a green thumb can repurpose the versatile milk carton for use in their gardens. Rinse out an empty milk carton, punch holes in the cap, and use it as a watering can in your garden. Cut off the bottom portion of a milk carton and place it under a potted plant to catch excess water. Trim off the top and use the bottoms of milk cartons as planters or to start seedlings. The top halves of milk cartons can be placed over young plants in the spring to protect them from late frost.
6. You Can Repurpose it for Organizing Your Home Instead of allowing your plastic milk cartons to languish for years in a landfill site, use them to organize your home. Use the bases of milk cartons to separate picnic items in the bottom of your travel cooler. Place them in your refrigerator to store and separate fruits, vegetables, small dairy items, and meats. Keep plastic grocery bags tidy by cutting a hole in your carton to make a place to stash them. Cut a hole opposite the milk carton handle and store it behind your toilet as a handy toilet brush holder. Use a clean, dry milk carton as a trash receptacle in your car.
7. You Can Play with Them Clean, empty milk cartons can also be repurposed for playtime. The top half of a milk jug makes a great funnel for tots to play with on the beach. Amass a large collection of the jugs and let the kids build an indoor igloo or fort. Cut scoops out of cartons, grab a Wiffle ball and enjoy a game of toss and catch. Snip a large hole in the front of a carton, make bean bags from old socks and rice, and play a game of bean bag toss. Make a party game of dropping clothes pins into empty milk cartons.