For the over-stretched parent who doesn’t have time to puree plums or soak grains overnight, portable plastic packs jammed with organic and healthful ingredients are a godsend.
On-the-go moms can just twist off the cap and hand a pouch of blueberry flax and oat to a hungry baby to suck on by himself. No spoon or spoon skills required.
While these packs are pricey ― a 4-ounce pouch can cost north of $2 ― families are willing to fork over the funds for the convenience factor. But this convenience comes with another price: Most of these plastic pouches can’t be recycled and are destined for landfills ― or worse, the oceans. The demand is growing even though reasonably priced alternatives are available that can be used over and over again.
The problem with the disposable pouches is that they’re made from multiple layers of materials and the recyclable components can’t be separated out, said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, the largest residential recycler in North America.
Empty food packs and other types of trash end up in the ocean due to a mix of mismanaged trash disposal and littering. When a person litters, for example, that item can easily blow into a storm drain, travel through sewer pipes and eventually land in waterways.
Stuffing loads of unusual and healthful foods into plastic casings isn’t sitting well with environmentalists.
“There’s definitely a push for clean eating both for kids and grown-ups,” Lindsay Gallimore, a mother of two who blogs about green issues, told HuffPost. “But all the buzz words that are associated with a ‘greener’ lifestyle are packaged into a packaging that’s not green at all.”
If the baby food industry doesn’t come up with a solution soon, the amount of plastic piling up from these products is only going to grow at an explosive rate.
In 2015, sales from baby food pouches reached $45 million. That was up from $8 million in 2010, according to a report from the Freedonia Group, a market research firm.
While plenty of plastic products are harming the environment, activists take specific issue with baby food packs because a number of convenient and eco-friendly alternatives exist, even for time-strapped parents.
“I can’t get everyone to use washable menstrual pads. I certainly can’t get everyone to use cloth diapers,” Gallimore said. “Feeding your baby healthy purees could happen in so many other ways that don’t require the little squishy packs.”
Gallimore likened the advent of plastic baby food packs to the K-Cup phenomenon. While some of these one-time-use coffee pods are technically recyclable, the process is so painstaking that consumers are more likely to throw them in the trash after using them for a few seconds. In fact, John Sylvan, the inventor of the Keurig machine, said he regrets the innovation.
“It was along the same lines as K-Cups for coffee,” Gallimore said of the similarities between the coffee pods and plastic baby food packs. “We were doing fine without them before.”
Before the plastic squeezy packs hit the market, baby food was mostly packaged in glass jars, which are recyclable, reusable and cheaper. Responding to the surge of plastic packs, a number of companies have developed receptacles that work similarly, but can be washed and used more than once.
Rhoost, for example, manufactures 4.5-ounce plastic pouches that can be filled with pureed food repeatedly and washed by hand or in the dishwasher. They run $12.99 for a four-pack.
Though most of the disposable plastic packs can’t be recycled, some experts say there is some merit to them.
They usually require fewer raw materials to produce than recyclable materials, which results in net energy and greenhouse gas emissions savings, Bell, of Waste Management, said. The packages are also designed in such a way to reduce food waste, which is where the “greatest environmental savings are realized,” he said.
Hain Celestial ― the company behind Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen baby food ― is reducing its plastic footprint by partnering with recycling company TerraCycle. After consumers finish with their packs, they can download free shipping labels and send the waste to TerraCycle.
Since the products can’t be separated, they’re shredded and melted into a plastic and pelletized. That material is then sold to manufacturers who can use recycled plastic in their products, Lauren Taylor, TerraCycle’s global director for communications, said.
While this process is a start, it’s not capturing many plastic packages. Celestial sells about 20 million pouches annually in the U.S. alone, said Jared Simon, vice president of marketing for Better-for-You-Baby at Hain Celestial United States. TerraCycle has collected about 3.3 million pouches in the U.S. and the U.K. since it started doing so in 2013.
Even if those numbers increased, environmentalists likely still wouldn’t be satisfied.
“Recycling is awesome ― it’s great. But recycling is not the be all and end all of environmentalism. It’s expensive and it’s not a perfect solution.” Gallimore said. “Instead, how can we replace what we’re using and throwing away with something that we don’t throw away?”
Also on HuffPost
Reduce use of all plastic products
Recycle when you can, and do it right
Choose non-synthetic fabrics when possible
Say no to microbeads
Participate in clean-up efforts
Support plastic bag legislation
Support companies that are thinking of out-of-the-box solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics
DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty ImagesTwo foreign female tourists were caught in a crossfire between rival crime groups and shot to death last Thursday in the high-end resort town of Tulum, Mexico. Three other people were also wounded when the firefight broke out in the popular restaurant, La Malquerida, not far from the beach. Of the two women who were killed, one was from Germany and the other India.“They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got caught in an exchange of gunfire betwee
Revelation of incident ‘buried’ by Abedin contained in new memoir Both/And, to be published next weekUS politics – live coverage Huma Abedin pictured in 2016. Abedin does not name the senator, their party or give any other clues as to his identity. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters Huma Abedin, a longtime close aide to Hillary Clinton, has written in a new book that she was sexually assaulted by a US senator, an incident she “buried” until allegations against the supreme court justice Brett Kavan
NASCAR fined crew chief Adam Stevens $20,000 and suspended him from Sunday’s Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC) when the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was found with two lug nuts not safe and secure after the playoff race at Kansas Speedway. Stevens was one of two crew chiefs suspended […]
One of Hallmark Channel‘s go-to actresses has set her sights on a new basic cable home. Danica McKellar, who has headlined more than a half-dozen “Countdown to Christmas” movies for Hallmark since 2015, is departing the network for a new competitor: GAC Family (fka Great American Country). Per Deadline, the Wonder Years vet has signed […]
The Los Angeles Lakers overcame the absence of LeBron James and an injury scare to Anthony Davis on Tuesday to beat the San Antonio Spurs in overtime as the Golden State Warriors extended their unbeaten start to the season.
FBIWarning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.A U.S. Embassy staffer accused of drugging and sexually assaulting at least 24 women over a 14-year period was in fact a longtime CIA employee, the FBI announced Monday, as the bureau urged any possible victims to come forward in the case.Serial molester Brian Jeffrey Raymond, 45, was arrested Oct. 9, 2020, in La Mesa, California, where he had been staying with his parents after abruptly quitting his job at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico
Richard “Dick” Evans, who was a staple of 1960s and ’70s television, died on October 2 of cancer, his family announced today. He was 86. In his 40-year career, Evans played opposite Mia Farrow as a series regular on Peyton Place, acted opposite George C. Scott in Islands in the Stream and starred in Jack […]