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Costco's square milk jug curses milk consumers

Innovation is an important factor of civilization — it increases efficiency. However, it is not always needed, and can ruin a perfectly good product. Patrons of Costco may know to what I am referring: newly designed milk jugs.

The "milk jug" image is universal. Milk is stored in translucent, bell-shaped containers with flattened sides, a handle and a spout. Details may vary, but consumers shopping at Safeway, Albertsons, QFC or Costco expect their milk to be available in this "milk jug."

However, Costco, famous for bulk buys, samples and glorious muffins, made the executive decision to 'improve' milk's classic image.

The new jug is labeled to prove how much better the change would make my life. According to the label, the new jug pours better, stacks better and keeps milk fresher longer — apparently.

However, the new opaque plastic jug is like a squat skyscraper. Made entirely of right angles and flat sides with soft edges, it features a huge, hole-like spout on the top corner, sitting almost flush with the top. The handle on the opposite corner is both surprisingly slender and awkwardly close to the top. It is a container suited for fertilizer, gasoline, deicer or marbles. I would not use it for food.

Unnerved though I was, I believe in change, so I gave it a try. What I found, though, was frustrating. Newly opened, this jug does not allow convenient pouring. Its width and small lip produces a wide torrent of milk spilling from the jug at a shallow slant, unlike the narrow fountain that jettisons forth from standard containers. The milk soiled my counter as it dribbled down the sides of the container.

So I ask, since this new jug reminds me of pouring paint from a gallon paint can, do the other 'benefits' make this change good?

I admit the new container is incredibly stackable. Shaped like tall cubes, they can be stacked like blocks. Really though, not even college students go through enough milk to benefit from this.

In addition, the jug's narrow base lends itself to storage in the refrigerator door, where milk is prone to spoil fastest due to frequent drastic temperature changes.

But that made me wonder — does the special lining really help milk stay fresh? It could be true, and I didn't experiment, but I'm curious if it keeps the milk that dribbled over the outside from getting gross.

Sure, you could bathe your milk jug every time you eat cereal, but who has time for that? I'm imagining the average college student's refrigerator: There will be puddles of wretched, awful milk crusted on the bottom, befouling shelves, creating a breeding ground for bacteria, food poisoning and a really funky smell.

If the plastic was biodegradable, I might suffer through these containers as I do splintery wooden and water-soluble, corn-derived, environmentally-friendly cutlery. I want to save the porpoises and can bear inconveniences to live greenly. Thus, I was irked to see that my milk suffering wasn't helping whales, rainforests or indigenous people of developing countries.

The suffering of anyone who buys this new, dreadful container benefits no one except for Costco, which spends less on shipping because of the superb stack — ability of its product. This is innovation at its most inconvenient.

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