By Kim Robson:
The latest horrifying example of single-use non-recyclable plastic packaging in the name of convenience (I’m looking at you, K-Cups) seems to be baby food pouches. Instead of packaging baby food in reusable, recyclable, inexpensive glass jars, we now have single-use suckable plastic pouches — no dishes or spoon skills needed. Just unscrew the top and hand it over. The child doesn’t even need to see what he or she is eating before the mostly empty pouch gets tossed to the floor.
Healthy sounding blends such as creamed spinach and kale blended with mango or pomegranate and beets seem to be wholesome on the surface. But they’re blended to a perfectly smooth consistency for easy sucking, and include added sugars that appeal to your baby’s taste buds. Good Morning America recently investigated the ingredients in Plum Organics’ pouches: while their healthy, pre-made meals are all-organic-this and super-grain-that on the front label, inside, it’s all applesauce and water. For example, their “Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon” sounds super healthy, right? But the three main ingredients are water, carrot puree, and sweet potato puree. Chicken and quinoa don’t show up until sixth and seventh on the ingredient list. The manufacturer adds apple puree to many of its blends, yet it appears nowhere in the products’ names.
The worst part, though, is that most of these pouches are utterly non-recyclable. They’re composed of multiple layers of plastic that require cleaning and separation prior to recycling which, of course, isn’t going to happen at the consumer level. Brent Bell, vice president of Waste Management, the largest residential recycler in North America, says, “In most cases, the components in a baby food pouch cannot be separated at all, which means it goes straight to a landfill after its brief twenty seconds of glory.”
Straight to the landfill or — worse — the ocean. According to a report from market research firm Freedonia Group, sales from baby food pouches are increasing dramatically — from $8 million in 2010 to $45 million in 2015, a nearly six-fold increase.
Blogger Lindsay Gallimore, a mother of two, says, “There’s definitely a push for clean eating both for kids and grown-ups. But all the buzz words associated with a ‘greener’ lifestyle are packaged into a packaging that’s not green at all. Feeding your baby healthy purees could happen in so many other ways that don’t require the little squishy packs.”
Some companies, however, are stepping up their game. Rhoost and others have developed food pouches that work the same way, but can be washed, disinfected, and reused multiple times. They manufacture 4.5-ounce plastic pouches that can be filled with pureed food repeatedly and washed by hand or in the dishwasher. They run $12.99 for a four-pack.
Hain Celestial ― maker of Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen brands of baby food ― has partnered up with recycling innovators TerraCycle. After the baby food pouches have been used, consumers can download free shipping labels and mail the pouches to TerraCycle for recycling. Since the layers of plastic can’t be separated, they’re instead shredded and melted into a plastic that’s then pelletized. The plastic pellets are sold to manufacturers who use recycled plastic in their products, says Lauren Taylor, TerraCycle’s global director for communications. But that’s just a drop in the bucket. According to Jared Simon, vice president of marketing for Better-for-You-Baby at Hain Celestial United States, Celestial sells about twenty million baby food pouches annually in the U.S. alone. But TerraCycle has collected only about 3.3 million pouches in the U.S. and the U.K. since it started doing so in 2013.
Another serious concern with pouches is that they can contain mold hidden behind that opaque plastic packaging. Popular applesauce maker GoGo SqueeZ recently recalled certain products after a production issue led to mold developing in their pouches. Disgusting and dangerous.
Far better is to avoid these pouches altogether and stick with those tried-and-true little glass jars. There are SO many things you can use them for. And they’re perfectly and easily recyclable. Or better yet, make your own DIY baby food. It’s really not as hard as one might think, and you can control your child’s nutrition.