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What a milk carton can tell us

What a milk carton can tell us

On the package of organic milk from Coop (Sweden) I can read the plastic cap is made out of oil. For some reason they can’t use biodegradeable plastic made from renewable sources. Instead they “support the production of the same quantity of renewable plastic somewhere else”. In addition they claim that they through this can reduce the use of fossil raw materials. This is supposed to make me feel good.  

In this way, the package of milk illuminates two common phenomena in how modern businesses handle, or not, environmental challenges. The first is the notion of “compensation”, i.e. that we can compensate an ill by doing something good somewhere else. The prime example is of course climate compensation or carbon offset, which it often is called. But there are other examples such as habitat banking whereby you pay someone to provide ecosystems or species which you have destroyed. And now plastic compensation. There are many things to say about the notion that you can compensate for destruction. It leads to financialization and privatization of nature (read this excellent article by Sian Sullivan) and it often means that poor peoples’ environment will be used to compensate rich peoples lifestyle (e.g.. when you compensate your flight with tree planting in developing countries).

Instead, let me instead probe the other message of the milk package: That you can “save” or “reduce use” of fossil fuels using renewable plastics. In the case of my organic milk this is greenwashing in its purest shape. Before Coop introduced the plastic cap, the package had no cap, but the carton could easily be opened and closed. By introducing a cap of made out of oil Coop clearly increases the use of fossil fuels.  But they look at the situation differently.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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