Batch One of 2019 cheese went to market last weekend. If you were one of the lucky patrons to get some cheese before we sold out, you got to be part of our new packaging trials. We’d love to hear what you thought about the changes.
Our hand-ladled cheese rounds have always been wrapped in cellophane, a biodegradeable material made from cellulose, but our other fresh cheeses and the marinated cheeses have come in small plastic tubs. We go through 8,000 of these tubs every year. When it came time for Jenn to order tubs for 2019, she and Ken felt it was time to make a change.
At the farm we work hard to reduce waste. Our family food waste is composted or fed to our pigs and chickens. The whey left over from cheese-making goes to Brittany and Bill Sullivan in Fayette. They feed the whey to their pasture-raised pigs. All our paper waste is burned in our Taylor wood furnace which heats the house, the dairy and the pasteurizer. Of course we recycle glass, metal and plastic, but we’ve become increasingly concerned about what happens to our plastic tubs in the long run.
While aluminum and other metals have proved easy and profitable to recycle, plastics have not. Recycling plastic is difficult, energy intensive and results in a product of limited usefulness. Most worrying of all, plastics don’t decompose. They remain and slowly accumulate on our lands and in our oceans, lakes and rivers. They leach chemicals into water, are consumed by unwitting animals and have built up in giant floating masses in our oceans.
When descriptions of a beached whale with a stomach full of plastic hit the news last year, Jenn knew it was time to make a change at the dairy. While eliminating plastic from our lives entirely is not feasible, we thought we could put a big dent in our footprint by getting rid of the plastic tubs.
We’ve already switched our marinated and feta cheeses to glass jars with metal screw top lids and our other (firmer) cheeses will be wrapped in cellophane. We are still experimenting with our soft fresh cheeses that used to come in the small tubs. The weekend they will be wrapped in cellophane in log and pillow shapes. Please come see us at Market and let us know if you would prefer the cellophane or the glass jars for these cheeses.
Customers will be able to return jars to us at the Columbia Farmers Market each weekend. The lids will be recycled and the jars will be cleaned and sanitized at the farm and then re-used. This will include a price increase of 25-50 cents -- but we’re removing 16,000 pieces of plastic from the waste stream. We think it is worth the cost, we hope you do, too.
I know a lot of us (myself included) have gotten attached to the plastic tubs. They are handy for storing leftovers, freezing batches of pesto or carrying snacks on the road. The good news is the jars are reusable, too! They can even be put in the freezer!
And if you break a jar or choose to recycle it instead of returning or reusing it, you can rest easy. While glass recycling isn’t as profitable and successful as metal recycling, waste glass doesn’t cause the same environmental issues as plastic. The molecules in glass are naturally occuring, and non-toxic. Critters don’t confuse them with food, and over time as glass breaks and wears down, it becomes sand. The city of Columbia (and many other entities) use crushed recycled glass in road projects.
So now you can have your cheese and eat it too -- with a little less worry about the impact on the world.
P.S. We aren’t experts on plastic. If you are interested in learning more about plastic, how it’s made, how it gets recycled and other issues here are some articles and resources we found useful: