Mason Jars

Mason Jars

I'm knew to this whole shopping like a grown up thing so this rant could be pure naivety, however a revelation dawned on me in asile nine of Valuemart a few weeks ago. It all started when the retro mason jar packaging of the pasta sauce caught my eye. I was transported back to being 7 years old again and making strawberry jam in June (speaking of which canning season is coming up and I think it is time I reclaimed by youth). I counted at least three different brands who had opted for this 150 year old technology Splendio, Classico, and even our beloved President's Choice.
For some reason mason jar channel nostalgic energy my way because the next thing i knew I was back in grade twelve science learning about energy return on investment(EORI). Mr. Sutherland was explaining how the EROI of recycling glass is negligible but the EROI of reusing glass is incredible. He went into depth about the X ray system they use to check returned bottles for structural integrity but I don't have to get into detail because we all know this. We know this because its the reason we bring our bottles back to the beer store and why the program has been expanded to wine and liquor bottles.
My epiphany in aisle nine was why stop there why not expand it to other types of food stuff packaging and the standardized mason jar seems lke an excellent place to start. I mean, we've got the infrastructure. If the province can virtually double the capacity of our existing take back system in order to accommodate wine in just a few short years why not triple it? The proof of the viability of this concept lies in the willingness of the three different companies to voluntarily standardize their packaging without government regulation or a take back system. I envision a program that would mimic the 10 cent deposit system all ready in place for alcohol and work in conjunction with minimal packaging laws. A program that would put the onnous on business to justify why their container is so innovative that it should compromise societal values of sustainability and ecological responsibility. Changing the food industries behaviour is not about enforcement, it is the creation of a norm and an alternative that is important here. The majority of beer comes in a brown bottle because that is the convention not because it is the law. I feel that it is a classic case of if you build it they will come, what company doesn't want an excuse to appear more environmentally friendly these days? Above all it would help close the loop on our waste streams and lighten our impact on the environment.
Moreover, In my experience you can do more with a universally recognized standardized jar then you can with and empty kraft peanut butter tub. These modern incarnations have ditched the ingenious two part lid strategy in favour of a plastic coated one piece lid that solves the pesky problem of rust contamination so they are more versatile. For example, In the student cooperative that I live in, we have been retrieving these jars for a few months now and were able to transform our spice cupboard, formerly a heap of haphazardly tied and twisted plastic bags lying on a carpet of spilt red powder and grey green flakes into a standardized exemplar of organization and in the process diverted a few hunks of glass from our waste stream. The idea seems to have caught on at the house as people become more and more comfortable with using mason jars as cups instead of actually replacing the chipped, stained and yes even moldy fleet of mugs and glasses in our cupboard. One of my more zealous house mates has even taken up the mason jar as a replacement for the purportedly cancer causing nalgene water bottles and takes it to class with him. though it may not seem conventional, need I remind you that aesthetics are highly subjective and as Toronto Life food critic James Chatto reminds us that, yes, even cocktails are being served in mason jars at "scenester" Bloor Street Barbeque shacks.
In sum, if we are serious about the take back system as a useful tool for reducing our impact on the environment and closing the loop on our waste stream then we should expand it as much as possible to the whole food packaging industry. We should set up standards for minimal packaging laws and the mason jar seems to be a good start in this direction, doubly so as companies are already voluntarily using it.

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