A Kroger Co. dairy in Lynchburg, Va., is producing a new lightweight gallon milk jug, using technology from Mid-America Machining Inc.
Kroger's Westover Dairy distributes milk, water, juice and tea to 92 Kroger stores in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and North and South Carolina.
Pete Lobbestael, Mid-America's vice president of sales, said the lightweight jugs have on the market since September. Kroger officially announced the rollout on March 1.
Mid-America Machining, based in Brooklyn, Mich., worked with Kroger engineers to design the jug, which weighs 56 grams vs. 62 grams for the old jug. "We've been working with Kroger two years or so," Lobbestael said.
Kroger said customers will not notice a difference. The new milk jug does have some special features, including a bigger handle, fill-level marks and a thumb pad for better handing. Kroger's customer research showed those are desirable improvements, said Eric Smarko, manager of the Westover Dairy plant.
The high density polyethylene milk jugs lets Kroger use about 10 percent less plastic, with the same performance, Smarko said. "We have removed 81,500 pounds of plastic out of the waste stream since the startup of the new jug," he said.
And when Kroger expands production of the lightweight milk jug to its other dairies, the environmental benefit will be significant.
"Utilization of the jug is expected to save more than 5 million pounds of plastic per year when fully implemented across the country, resulting in less mass being dumped into landfills," Smarko said.
HDPE milk jugs can also be also recycled. The recycling rate for natural-colored HDPE bottles in 2015, the most recent year available, was 30.5 percent, according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers.