Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fairlife Followup

Last week I wrote the bottle that contains Fairlife chocolate milk and in particular about how confusing the recycling code at the bottom is. It's the number 7, but instead of saying "other" as it should, it says "PETE" (which corresponds to the number 1 code). I contacted Fairlife about this and received the following email:
"Hi John!

Thanks so much for reaching out; we REALLY appreciate your taking the time to get in touch with us.

Our bottles are primarily made from PET, which is #1 plastic. We add a very small percentage of white colorant to protect the milk from UV and visible light (UV and visible light impact the integrity of the milk and the vitamins present in it). The addition of the white colorant is what makes the plastic bottle #7. PET plastic and the white colorant are both approved by the FDA as safe for packaging food products. There is no BPA in any of our packaging.

If you have any other questions or comments, please do not hesitate to give us a shout!

All the best,

Consumer Affairs

fairlife® ultra-filtered milk"

(Glad to see that the exclamation point key on their computer works so well!)

This just doesn't add up. Adding white colorant to PET doesn't make it a number 7, just as adding any other pigment to any other plastic doesn't change the base polymer or its recyclability.

But I question the need for a pigment at all. While Brooke is correct that the white plastic will "protect the milk from UV and visible light", a white pigment isn't needed. The bottle is already mostly covered in a brown-colored overwrap film which will block light. Besides, "normal" milk is packed in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) which is a hazy white without any white additives. The whiteness arises from the crystals in the material scattering light (which coincidentally is also why milk appears white).

(As an aside, UV absorbers have been added to polyethylene milk bottles, but understandably, consumers are put off by the yellow color. This is hardly new technology, having been around since at least 1993.)

My guess: there is a barrier layer in the package which makes the whole mess incompatible with PET, and that the white pigment story is just a red herring.

Previous Years

July 22, 2011 - The Heat Index and Jenson's Inequality

July 22, 2010 - A Bio-based Acrylic


Anonymous said...

...and once again, Seinfeld is shown to be disturbingly relevant to real life! In this case! And that case!

Anonymous said...

...and in UPPER CASE! !!! !!!!!