A nationwide shortage of paper milk cartons may drive more business to the makers of plastic milk jugs, cups with lids and other alternatives, especially for schools.
School districts from New York to California have informed parents that they expect to run out of half-pint cartons served for breakfasts and lunches in November, with no sign of relief until early 2024.
"To be clear, this is strictly a packaging issue and not a milk supply issue," the Northeast Dairy Producers Association of Geneseo, N.Y., said on its website.
The shortage especially affects schools because they must have milk available at every meal, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and they rely on single-serve containers.
To fill the gap, some schools will pour individual servings from half-gallon jugs, although they will have to buy other supplies as well. The Holley Central School District in New York said it expects the delivery of a bulk order of 9-ounce cups and lids by Nov. 6.
But students at schools in Wisconsin's Wood, Clark and Marathon counties already have a plastic replacement in place. Nasonville Dairy and Weber Farm Store, businesses operated by a family farm with its own dairy herd, has sold its milk in plastic pouches since 1973. At the first sign of shortages, the company found it was easy to downsize to 8-ounce pouches that were perfect for local schools.
"[The kids] understood how to stick the straw in the pouch in a heartbeat. It's like a juice box," Ken Heiman, one of the family owners of the dairy, told the Wisconsin State Farmer. "The school districts love it because it cuts their garbage by 80 percent and the price is less."