Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Drink Pouch Brigade

Drink pouch ponderings from the Conscious Shopper

I don't have much time to write a post tonight. I spent the evening up to my elbows in soapy suds tainted with the sweet smell of slightly fermented "juice"...I've joined my son's school's drink pouch brigade.

Rotating with three other mothers, I pick up the week's load of drink pouches from the school cafeteria, snip the tops off, wash them out, dry them, and then return them to the school. All so the school can get $.02 per pouch.

I have mixed feelings about the drink pouch brigade.

On the one hand, I think TerraCycle is ingenious for finding ways to make new products out of what would otherwise be trash...and for getting school kids and their parents to do all the leg work. It's not likely that people are going to stop buying drink pouches completely (I've even bought a few in a pinch), so if we're going to keep producing this waste, we might as well find something better to do with it than adding it to a landfill. Plus, it earns money for my kid's school, and what school couldn't use some extra cash?

But on the other hand, does this type of program give parents an excuse to keep buying a crappy product packaged in crappy materials because it helps out their schools? If I were in the market for drinks for my kid's lunchbox, I could totally see myself justifying the plastic pouch over the juice box because one earns money for our school while the other just goes into the trash. And the more fruit punch we drink, the more money my school earns. So I should buy more fruit punch, right?

Plus, I spent an hour and a half washing pouches so the school could earn less than $5. My husband says, "Next time, just give them the $5."

And besides that, I think TerraCycle's end product is super tacky. If we're going to make trash into bags, couldn't we at least make them pretty? (Like these bags Maya*Made created from used coffee sacks.)

But speaking of tacky...I had this fabulous idea while washing the pouches that you could create a homemade/repurposed snack bag by snipping off the top of a drink pouch and somehow afixing velcro to the inside top of the pouch (hot glue gun?). Some of the CapriSun pouches even have see-through backs, so you could see what's inside the snack bag.

My new business venture?...Watch out, TerraCycle. You might have some competition!

What do you all think of the drink pouch brigade?


Anonymous said...

google drink pouch crafts - I made some neat milk money holders from some I had bought in an emergency...
They aren't that tough to do - and I sewed mine....with a hot glue gun you could really crank them out.

I agree - they are a pain and our school did this last year with some girlscouts earning a badge for it - we never saw the check....

JAM said...

I'd like to know the pros and cons of all the water down the drain that it took to wash them out vs. the landfill savings. Not to mention your time, but the water is definitely a factor. I agree the end result is pretty awful too. I can see using a few for crafty projects, but not more than that. My kids are older, and they happily take water in their Sigg bottles, but I didn't get them juice boxes or pouches more than very occasionally when they were little - it is so much better if we can just get in the habit of drinking water. But I know it's hard, especially if they're used to the sugary drinks.

wildfleur said...

This is just another example of the double edged swords that I come across trying to reduce/reuse/recycle but I still love that there are people like you out there participating despite the drawbacks, or as my college econ professor would say, "opportunity costs". I'm a cork brigade, all by myself, and while it takes me a good long while to collect corks from friends and fam, I feel like I'm making a difference albeit a tiny one. keep up the great work. :)

panamamama said...

Yep, I did the drink pouch brigade for our school BY MYSELF last year. It was NOT fun. I am allergic to fruit so my hands would be purple and burning. Plus the stinky trash bags filled with nastiness waiting for me to clean. Yuk. Also, after the year was up I realized they hadn't credited us anything but $2. I had sent in 1000's of bags. Not a happy camper. I had to tell myself it was still good we were recycling, but I have to say I'm not buying those drinks for my kids anymore and sending them with the cute water bottles I got them... Much, much easier.

Green Bean said...

That's funny. I signed our school up for the Terracycle drink pouch thing last year and never even set it up. After looking into everything, I too decided it wasn't worth the money. I also figured that the likelihood that parents would send the right drink pouches wasn't so high and didn't want to encourage it. Oh well. A good idea gone not so great.

Daisy said...

I hear you; all that time for a small amount of $$. Box tops for Education are like that in a way; 10 cents a box top? The school needs hundreds of thousands to make it worthwhile.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Anonymous - Darn! I was hoping I'd come up with an original idea. :)

@JAM - I thought about the water issue too, but I only used a sink full of water and compared to the amount of water used to make a new product, I think reusing the drink pouches still comes out better than tossing them. But I'm totally with you on the getting kids into the habit of drinking water.

@wildfleur - What do you do with the corks?

@panamamama - That's too bad that you didn't get paid for your dirty work. The first commenter mentioned that too, but I'm pretty sure our school has gotten paid - this isn't the first year they've done the drink pouch brigade.

@Green Bean - Definitely not worth the money. My time is much more valuable than $3.35 an hour.

@Daisy - It's $.10 a boxtop??? TerraCycle is totally ripping us off!

Kellie said...

I send the kid-sized aluminum bottles with water -- or juice once in a great while -- in them. What could be easier than water?

Cheri said...

I think it would be better to get the school (or a school club) to sell for profit reusable bottles (like a Klean Kanteen or the like) and encourage kids to bring their own drink in their bottle. The end product of these pouches is free advertising for the pouch drink company.

I think Klean Kanteen can actual put the school's logo on the bottles!

I was using a Klean Kanteen for my son's lunches at preschool for his milk. But, little 4 year old didn't put the cap back on all the way and it would leak too many times. BUT, I will try again next year!! I hate to see all that packaging.

And it does seem like too much parent time for too little money to help a company get some free advertising with the backpacks.

I agree with your husband, give them the $5 instead.

kale for sale said...

This is the second time I've seen the coffee sack turned into bags. They're selling them at Blue Bottle in SF for a fortune. But it's a great way to reuse the sacks. Thanks for sharing the link.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Kellie - Are your kids responsible enough to not lose the bottles? We're having this dilemma right now because my kids keep losing water bottles. I don't want to buy an expensive water bottle if they're just going to lose it!

@Cheri - That's a good idea since the school already sells t-shirts and such with the school logo.

@kale for sale - Maya*made's bags are also expensive, but I think they are so cute. I've seen some used coffee sacks at a scrap store we have here and have been thinking of trying to make my own burlap bags out of them.


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