Monday, October 5, 2009

First, a little irony for the morning:

Chloe, our 11-month-old pup, chewed my favorite canvas, reusable shopping bag. Because it’s a rainy Monday and the dogs are spending the day inside with me while I attempt to write, I’m not even taking the bag away from her. The damage is done. And, since I’m out of the big chew bones that normally occupy her on rainy days...the bag is keeping her busy and out of my hair. I hope that gives you a sense of atmosphere for my my Facebook account is “unavailable due to site maintenance”--since yesterday. Yeesh...

So, last week I promised that I’d look into the juice box dilemma. Even before the launch of our family eco-initiative, Peter complained about juice boxes. Perhaps his irritation stemmed from those little cellophane straw wrappers that our children tend to leave everywhere. Or maybe it had something to do with the day Mikey, playing firefighter, squeezed his apple juice box as hard as he could to “put out a fire” on the living room carpet. Whatever the reason, I continued to buy juice boxes because...well, let’s face it. They’re convenient. Grab and go. Also, the kids can get their own drinks from the fridge without spilling a pitcher of lemonade on the floor or summoning me. Plus, honestly, what are the alternatives when you need to send snacks for soccer games or class parties?

With more than 100 billion juice boxes manufactured annually, I suppose I’m not alone with my juice box infatuation.

While I’m a major purchaser of juice boxes, I do feel guilt. My issue with juice boxes is the lack of recycling opportunities. We can't chuck them in the recycling bin with the newspapers or the milk jugs. Juice boxes are considered aseptic containers, which means they’re produced under sterile conditions, and the contents require no refrigeration or preservatives to remain germ-free. The good news is: aseptic containers incur less energy costs per unit during transport. The box design allows more units per truckload versus bottles, and there’s no energy expended for refrigeration. Proponents of juice boxes also cite the relatively low ratio of packaging weight to product: 4% for juice boxes versus 30-40% for glass bottles, which means less resources expended in manufacturing and less packaging clogging landfills. So far, so good.

However, a typical juice box is comprised of:
  • Six layers of paper, 24%
  • Polyethylene, 70%
  • Aluminum foil, 6%

Additionally, each juice box contains a plastic straw, wrapped in the lovely cellophane. Juice boxes are sold in packs of six or more, so they’re wrapped in a cardboard sleeve, printed with the marketing info, and then shrink-wrapped.

Now, we have a problem.

Besides the extraneous material, there are only a few states that provide recycling for juice boxes. South Carolina isn’t one of them. If you feel like driving to Raleigh, NC....they offer juice box recycling. Let me know if you’re going, I’ll send some juice boxes with you.

Recycling juice boxes isn’t an easy process. Through “hydrapulping,” paper is separated from polyethylene and ground into pulp, which can then be used for recycled paper products.

Or, if you’re really crafty, you can recycle a juice box into an iPod case

Hmm. Maybe I’ll make one for Peter. His birthday is next month.

The Aseptic Packaging Council, an organization for producers of aseptic products, states on its website that they are working to increase the number of locations that provide juice box recycling. You can go to the website ( and check to see if there is juice box recycling in your area. Maybe call a local politician, promise your vote in exchange for juice box recycling in your community.

OK, so that still doesn’t answer the big question: what do I send to Mikey’s soccer game or Kristen’s class Halloween party?

It’s a sad fact that the world is a little too scary for any parent to be 100% comfortable with a non-packaged drink given to a child by a stranger. If I were to show up at soccer with a pitcherful of homemade lemonade and some reusable cups that I could take home and wash...what would those parents think? Would they fear the “unknown” in the drink? Would they think I'm a scary soccer-mom? And what if I substitute homemade chocolate chip cookies for the individually packaged, safely sealed Oreos?

What would be your reaction?

Anyway...there is some good news. TerraCycle offers a recycling program for juice pouches, like Capri Sun and Honest Kids. TerraCycle, the brainchild of a 19-year-old Princeton student, began as an organic fertilizer company and now is a multi-category, eco-friendly powerhouse committed to reducing waste. Schools and not-for-profit organizations can earn up to $.02 per redeemed juice pouch. ( That’s $.20 per carton of Capri Sun. While it’s not enough financial support to end the educational budget crisis, it does contribute a bit of cash to schools and resolves the juice pouch recycling conundrum. Turn your kids' juice pouches into pencil cases! Tote bags! It’s the new eco chic! Check out the products they make with the recycled juice pouches.

While not ideal, I suppose I can enroll Kristen’s school in the program and send Capri Sun to the party. And, of course, I can always send water bottles for soccer--at least we can recycle them. In the next few weeks, I’m going to take a field trip to see how bottles are recycled--thanks to my friend, Brandy. Juice boxes are out at our house, except for the remaining few in the refrigerator. We’ve switched to reusable Sigg bottles for our on-the-go drink needs, and around the house we reuse plastic Zaxby’s kids’ cups with lids. It’s embarrassing how many Zaxby’s kids’ cups are lurking in the cabinets...

Here’s the scoreboard so far:

Diet Coke cans: 0
Diet Coke 2-liter bottles: 2 (I know...I’m working on it.)
Juice boxes: banished
San Pellegrino bottles: also banished

Yes, beginning today, my darling husband announced that he’s giving up his beloved imported Italian sparkling water to contribute to the cause. Isn’t he a good sport?

And for those of you who worry about Tyler’s water needs at Furman (aka Aunt Becky), we bought him a BPA-free water bottle. It’s very cool and hip. He promises to use it. We’ll see.

So, we’re on the path to healthier, more environmentally friendly choices for our drinks. Now, we’re tackling food. Can the Adolf family become locavores? Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. oh, we have about 20 Zaxby's cups! We use them for rinsing hair in the bath tub, washing out our paint brushes, and sometimes as snack cups :) And they are very handy if you have a ton of kids over to your house!

    Glad to know my capri suns are better than boxes! Thanks for doing the research that benefits us all!