Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Milk Cartons & the End of Western Civilization

I think there’s a serious flaw in our college system. Especially in engineering departments. I think the accreditation boards need to get involved. Where are the good old days when engineers knew how to design a functional Christmas tree stand that didn’t need a dipstick (see here)? Or city storm drains that don’t flood our street? I could see an occasional design flaw. But lately everything has them. Even milk jugs. It used to be that milk came in waxed cardboard containers with spouts that folded out. You could pour milk without spilling a single droplet. Then, came the big plastic gallon containers. They weren’t quite as good, but with a little care in pouring—no problem. Now my milk comes in plastic rectangles with a rounded opening on a recessed end on the top. And they don’t work.

If you’ve ever poured milk from one of these monstrosities, you know that it “blubs” milk. No matter where you position your cereal bowl, when you tilt the carton, the milk will splat on the tablecloth. At first, I thought it was me. You know, pre-coffee and pre-cereal I don’t have the best mental function. Then a friend was at the house and I tipped a new milk carton to fill my creamer—the milk blubbed all over the counter. The woman said, “Don’t you hate that.” And in that moment, I knew it wasn’t just me.

So I complained at the Costco where I buy my six gallons of milk a week. (The checkout person always asks me if I’m a cheese maker. I say, “I have four adult/teenage kids.”) Anyway, the Costco manager explained that the weird containers save money because they ship better. He seems to be missing the point that at my house they lose my money—every time I open a container, 20 cents of milk ends up wasted and I have to wash a tablecloth. He didn’t seem to be concerned.

But this is my worry, a culture who can’t engineer a working milk container will probably never be able to put a man on the moon again. Sigh. The end of Western civilization as we know it.

But maybe this post will make a difference and engineering schools will teach their students “Milk Carton Design.” In the meantime, I take off the tablecloth for breakfast. 


  1. Hey, I have no trouble pouring those milk cartons. Although, that could just be due to the copious amounts of milk that I drink. . .

  2. That sucks. I hate things that are designed weirdly. I get design for the sake of design but not so much when it comes to things that are supposed to be practical. Although, your issue seems to be design-for-the-sake-of-saving-money and not so much for practicality. BOO.

    I actually have no idea what these milk cartons look like though. Pictures?

  3. I always ended up tearing the old cardboard cartons with the spouts to shreds, because I could never get the spout to properly separate. And then i would have shredded cardboard in my milk. So I'm not even a particularly huge fan of the old way of designing milk cartons. When can we go back to glass bottles, please?

  4. OMG, I thought it was me too! I though I was turning into this old lady who couldn't hold a milk container the right way.