Grocer Eliminates Cardboard Cereal Boxes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

British-based grocer Sainsbury recently announced that it will remove cardboard cereal boxes from its shelves, replacing them with plastic packets. The company has also started selling milk in polythene bags instead of rigid plastic milk bottles.

Sainsbury is the first grocer to make this move and expects that it will cut packaging by one third on its entire range of products.

While Britain produces more than 10 million pounds of waste annually, this could be a step in the right direction to reducing that number.

According to the U.K. Times Online, Sainsbury polled more than 1,000 customers about the 10 worst packaged products and discovered that they were frustrated with excessive levels of packaging.

Other companies are beginning to embrace the idea as well. Kellogg’s, the largest cereal manufacturer in the world, is testing a redesign of its cereal boxes.

The new box is embracing depth over height, which will save up to 5 percent of the space on grocery shelves and cut packaging by 8 percent.

Paperboard, the material used for cereal boxes, has already seen a reduction in recycling value because of less demand from manufacturers.

But does this mean that plastic ha a higher value. Yes, I know, it does but that should not be the point. Paperboard, paper, cardboard are wood pulp based materials that come from nature and will return to nature without much of a problem. Plastics, on the other hand are mineral oil based and hence are not sustainable, whether or not the stuff ca n be recycled.

To be perfectly honest, I have never heard as many daft arguments as in this discussions.

The problem is that this seems to be based totally on ignorance and on attempt to reduce waste. However, who out there is ignorant to the fact that paper and not plastic is a renewable resource?

While cardboard may be bulky as far as packaging goes it can be recycled in more than one way.

Personally I use the board from cereal cartons as covers for my rescued paper notebooks, turn them into bookmarks or, if I really have no use for it, I throw it into the composter where it is returned to soil.

If grocers, and that includes Sainsbury's, the store that I use mostly, are really concerned as to the impact of the packaging material of their goods them, maybe, they should off goods lose so that people bring their own containers but, that. I guess, would be asking too much. Instead gimmicks are employed.

In order, for instance to use and store and opened milk bag you need a special jug thing in which to store it or, alternatively, you need to pour the milk over into storage jugs. Bring back milk in bottles and the doorstep pinta delivery.

I believe the government or at least the media should start a campaign to strongly suggest grocers install self-help refill machinery for more bulk items. It is common to see coffee and candy self-operated refills, why not laundry soap, or milk, or shampoo. The list could go on and on. Specific refill containers could be sold for each item with a swap-out for new containers each time like the propane tanks you get for refill. That would control contamination.

In some place you can take used, washed, plastic containers to your local co-op and get bulk stuff like vinegar, soaps,and peanut butter. But, alas, this does not work everywhere and definitely not in Britain anymore, it seems, with the exception of some smaller stores.

I remember when I used to get to London a lot going to Neal's Yard in Covent Garden where everything was sold lose and you would bring your own glass jars to have them filled with the most delicious peanut butter that could be gotten.

Flour, beans, peas, rice, and many more things were sold in the same manner then – and this was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Why can this not be done in other stores too?

Yes, they would have to have more staff and, maybe, things would be a little more – but then they really should not be thus – but we would have very little packaging.

Part of the reasoning behind the cereal being in boxes, is presumably to help protect the product from crushing. Now my question is this: If they just put the end product in plastic bags – then won’t they have to change their shipping method to include more boxing etc. to protect their product on the shipping end? Additionally, if they put the product in plastic bags, they may want their product to still show upright, hence needing to create a new kind of shelving out of yet more raw material that may never be recycled? Hopefully this just isn’t a PR attempt gone stupidly awry. But, in my opinion, this is just it, namely a PR exercise that is gone totally and completely awry or that is going that way.

Do the bags need to be plastic? In the health food stores, some brands of organic cereals can be bought in bulk sizes and they are in the same packaging that comes inside the cereal box. This is paper and keeps the cereal fresh. You can also see how much is in the bag. Boxes are deceiving.

I think we must call on all supermarkets to get their brain into gear prior to running with something like this. No one is winning in this way.

Milk in bags – this is being and has been done with goats milk, for instance – needs special things to hold them in at the consumer's end or one needs jugs into which to decanter the milk. In addition, while not being a perfect solution, we all know that, the plastic milk jugs used presently, preserve the milk as they have a screw top lid that keeps out odors and contamination. This cannot be done once you snap off the corner of a plastic bag. I must say that those stupid ideas just beggar belief.

© 2009