Dairy converts to new eco-jug

MARTINS FERRY The next time you pick up a gallon of milk made by United Dairy, take a good look at the jug you’re holding.

Chances are, it’s going to look a little different.

That’s because United, with factories in Martins Ferry, Charleston, W.Va. and Uniontown, Pa. Ha switched to a more environmentally-friendly container. It’s also more stylish than its predecessor.

The new ‘eco jug’ from United utilizes 25 percent less plastic per jug, down to 55 grams of plastic resin per jug compare to 65 grams.

Ten grams per may not seem like much, but consider the Martins Ferry plant alone processes roughly 50,000 gallons each day and the savings add up. Roughly 850,000 fewer pounds of plastic will be used ever year.

Martins Ferry is the second United plant to begin using the new jugs as Charleston made the conversion on Jan. 28. A new half-gallon jug will be manufactured shortly as well.

“We are the first dairy in the country to try this,” said Tim Griglack, Director of Operations.

“We were working with Mid-America Machine on this bottle and were able to get the molds first. No one else in the country is doing it.”

The decision to make the switch was easy.

Plastic resin costs approximately 78 cents per pound so reducing the amount used, per bottle, provides cost savings.

Using 25 percent less plastic is also a boost to the environment, as is the switch to using Oshenite, a naturally renewing, pure ocean mineral that helps to color the bottle white and protect the milk.

That was the easy part. Getting the plant ready, however, required more than a little bit of work.

Bill Suto, Plant Manager, explained he and his employees knew some changes would have to be made to the production line, but the finished product required more than just minor tweaking.

Along with using the new blow molds, changes had to be made to the braking system on the conveyer as well as the rails along the conveyer

The different shape was allowing for increased movement and if the bottles got turned on the conveyor, the bottles were either getting dented or stuck.

This, naturally, created a problem so Suto and his crew spent countless hours updating the bottle transportation system from mold to filled milk jug.

Fortunately, Suto had a surplus of molds blown prior to the changeover, both in the old and new format, in case any issues arose so as not to hurt production.

Even new labels had to be designed as the previous design would no longer fit flush on the bottles.

While slightly taller, the jugs look somewhat smaller and more narrow. But unlike the previous version, there are no fill plugs on the sides. All products are United are weighed and measured so the same 1-gallon of milk you purchased before is the same amount in the new jugs.

It’s an interesting process to behold.

The dairy receives the shipments of raw milk and handles every other step in the production process, from homogenizing all the way up to shipping out the bottles to various stores and locations.

They have every step in the process, except for the cow.

“We make the jugs across the alley and ship them through and alpine system to the main plant. From the time the molds are blown, we can have milk sitting on the store shelves in 8-10 hours, start to finish.

The dairy in Martins Ferry employs roughly 200 people, including plant staff, managers, office staff and drivers. With nine total locations in five states, including the three plants, that amounts to around 600 employees.

“We’re always looking for good employees,” Director of Human Resources Doug Longenette said. “And we hire a lot of military guys so they are encouraged to apply. With our newly designed website, you can apply online or stop down at the Belmont County Connections office here in Martins Ferry.”

The company’s website can be found by going to www.uniteddairy.com

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com