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I am not sure if it happens in other countries, but some provinces in Canada uses milk bags for 4L instead of jugs, or other containers. Anyone knows if there is an advantage of this over the other conventional method? Is it because it's supposed to be more consumer friendly?

Because of this you have to buy a special item called milk bag holder that's only used for this. It's an item made to solve a problem that shouldn't be there in the first place. But also now you have another thing to clean from time to time as milk drops can form all kinds of bad stuff in the holder. The most common ones can even cut your hand because of utilizing ridges at the top for no reason.

There are other gotchas like what you need to do to seal the hole temporarily, etc.

Is there a reasonable design decision for this or it is done just because?

This is how it looks:

enter image description here

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I have never seen that in any place that I have lived or traveled to. It's quite original for me, risky, but original. –  PatomaS Mar 1 at 8:15
    
It has a novelty value. I used to have small water bags on buses but they were meant to be consumed at once, so it's not as bad. –  Joan Venge Mar 1 at 8:28
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Germany once used milk bags instead of TetraPaks, but I didn't find milk bags anymore since ~2002. –  DebugErr Mar 1 at 15:57
    
@PacMani: it was very common in East Germany. –  peterchen Mar 3 at 8:33
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@JoanVenge: laugh It's just a motor memory, awoken: standing there with a bag of milk lifted. You pick one bag from the bag/milk soup, pinching it at one corner, lifting it carefully as not to splatter milk over you. With all weight resting on one bottom corner, you try to figure out whether the milk dropping from it is from the outside or the inside - quickly, so you do not get stern words from the shopping courtesy police. Repeat for all corners. –  peterchen Mar 4 at 8:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Wikipedia article on Milk Bags point out the other countries they are common in. It also calls out the benefits (though not referenced):

Milk bags use less plastic than traditional milk jugs and are placed in reusable plastic pitchers. The bags themselves can also be washed out and re-used to carry sandwiches, or to freeze food (using a twist tie or rubber band for closure).

They contain less plastic than a milk jug, causing less environmental harm than milk jugs. Milk bags are more ideal from an environmental standpoint than paper milk cartons or glass milk bottles.

"Bucky," over at The West Virginia Blogger, asked his Canadian friend in 2008 and received several points, including:

  • The bags were actually adopted to reduce waste and other resources required to transport the milk.
  • The bags themselves are easy to sterilize and transport and some people even freeze their milk.
  • As well, the fact that you buy such a large amount usually means savings.

A comment in the above article by "sj" claims there is a 25-cent deposit on plastic jugs in Ontario, to help keep them out of landfills by discouraging people from buying them.

From Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, further evidence of overall cost is given:

there are a fair number of people in South Africa who don't have much money. Milk bags use less materials than jugs, so are cheaper to make. Some people are willing to pay for convenience, some people aren't.

Note the last paragraph, implying that bags are not more usable then jugs. Indeed, an update to the same blog post points out:

Update 1: Chris Auld wrote to Dan Wong of the BC Dairy Council and received this reply. Mr Wong explained that milk is not sold in bags in BC because of widespread cross-border shopping - consumers prefer milk sold in jugs, and be even more inclined to buy milk in the US if milk was not available in jugs in BC.

It appears that, according from the Dairy Council, consumers in Canada were willing to cross the border to America to buy jugs (likely at higher cost) for the convenience.

It would appear the the "design" decisions behind bagged milk is primarily for environmental and transportation reasons. The cost saving design of this is also of note, but unlikely to be the primary reason due many consumers willingness to spend more for convenience (i.e., jugs).

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It's cheaper to ship them.

This is a case in which the monetary considerations often outweigh the usability considerations. Imagine the milk crates containing the packages.

Some big-box retailers in the US started using rectangular milk jugs rather than the ones with the angled tops. They're awful to pour because they're unbalanced.

Which of these do you think costs less to ship:

milk containers

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I would like to have that rectangular milk jug :) I definitely agree that the standard milk jug is unbalanced and strains the wrist if you pour it with your arm in front of you. But how can you stack the plastic bags without them bursting? If you use square milk containers, then I wonder how much difference we are talking about. –  Joan Venge Feb 28 at 21:37
    
The rectangular containers are even more unbalanced. If I want to venture a guess on this, do I answer again? Anyway, my best bet is that the boxes contain cardboard dividers like in a 6-pack of bottles, with cardboard layers in between. Can't find any pictures, though. –  SwankyLegg Feb 28 at 21:50
    
To clarify, I was referring to the bags, not the milk jugs here. –  SwankyLegg Mar 1 at 18:39

I heard that this is common in Canada. It seems quite fragile and almost a 100% guarantee of spilling when you open it. Not very good for immediate usability right there.

These types of containers are flexible enough that you can pack more of them in one box for shipping. When it's in the store, I imagine they could be stacked, saving lots of shelf room.

You may want to consider purchasing rectangular, thus space-saving containers to put your milk into for storage in your fridge.

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And it's not even everywhere in Canada. Alberta didn't have it, Toronto and Montreal has it. I don't know about the others. –  Joan Venge Feb 28 at 21:02
    
They're actually very easy to open without spilling. You use scissors to cut one of the corners (after putting the bag in a jug). –  Dean Mar 1 at 7:13

I'd also note that in the food service industry, refrigerated milk dispensers ("cows") are generally loaded with a bag these days. Since the bag includes a tube that serves as the nozzle, and the dispensing valve simply pinches off that tube, this makes the entire system a sterile, disposable container rather than requiring a great deal of effort to clean the cow on a regular basis.

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I live in Arnprior, near Ottawa, Ont.

Milk bags are a breeze to use, not sure what the hubbub is. You simply cut one corner once you have dropped the bag into the jug; not decanting the milk out of the bag into the jug. It pours perfectly, and actually goes bad less frequently than carton or jug milk, as the bags are 1 liter, whereas both others are often in 2 liter format. Also, the bag in jug is not as heavy or awkward as the cartons & plastic jugs while pouring.

That being said, we all drink far too much milk in Canada, but it's a hard habit to break...

picture of a milk bag in a cup

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