Why shouldn't I be able to reuse a glass jar?
January 6, 2009 6:24 PM   Subscribe

GlassJarFilter: Is a "single-service" container really only able to be used once?

I've been reusing the glass jars (with hard plastic screw lid) from my plain yogurt to store cornmeal and flour, and sometimes as drinking glasses. I was washing and taking the label off of one of these jars tonight when I noticed "single-service container, please recycle" written on the label. Is that true? The ones I've reused have the label taken off and are washed in the dishwasher before I use them. I also throw away the soft styrofoamish disc that goes between the jar and the plastic lid.

Is there any reason to think these jars aren't safe for reuse? I Googled "single-service container" and found that this was part of a pasteurized milk ordinance, but the rationale for the containers being single-use only is not explained.

If they are safe to reuse (which I am assuming is the case since I've never had anything bad happen from their use), why must the container be marked in this way? I may contact the company, White Mountain Foods, but it seems that this is a government thing, not a company choice.
posted by fructose to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
No, there's no reason not to reuse them.

The marking on the package isn't mandatory. The "Please recycle" is public relations; it means "Even though we're producing huge amounts of stuff that probably ends up in the trash stream, we'd like you to think that we aren't, so we'll pay lip service to recycling here. See? We're green!"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:28 PM on January 6, 2009

More than likely it's the plastic lid, especially if it's the foggy kind of plastic, not the practically invisible kind. I know that foggy plastic jugs and bottles have the "only use once" warning label because, after time, the plastic will dissolve in the water, and it's not safe for ingestion. How unsafe, i do not know, the news report which covered the story didn't say.
Other than that, i can't think of a reason not to use glass- it's not water soluble, and i doubt they'd put any kind of chemicals in it.
posted by shesaysgo at 6:30 PM on January 6, 2009

By the way, it really is lip service. The market for recycled material has collapsed recently, and a lot of recycling centers suddenly can't get rid of a lot of the stuff they've collected. In cities with mandatory recycling it's a particular problem.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:30 PM on January 6, 2009

Oh, and one other thing: liability suits. If they tell you to reuse the bottle, and anything bad happens to you because of it, then you might sue them. If they tell you to toss it, and you reuse it anyway, then all responsibility for any negative result (no matter how unlikely or rare) is yours, not theirs.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:31 PM on January 6, 2009

You can't reseal the top of a glass jar with the original lid if you're canning - the flat disk needs to be replaced. For storing anything that you're not actually canning there's no problem.
posted by leslies at 6:39 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: @Chocolate Pickle-- I know that the recycle part isn't mandatory. I was talking about the "single-service container" part. That is mandatory according to the milk products law I found online, but I wasn't sure why.
posted by fructose at 6:47 PM on January 6, 2009

I wonder if the "single service" thing might be akin to the "this unit not labeled for individual sale" type thing, to keep people from selling other products in it, maybe.

I wouldn't worry about it, though. I reuse glass bottles instead of shelling out the beans for a SIGG, and have yet to notice any ill effects.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:58 PM on January 6, 2009

Here's a little more information about the containers. "Single-service" applies to the supplier, meaning that it can't be returned to them for reuse (like the old-school milk bottles that the milkman once brought). You, however, can do whatever you like with it (presumably as long as you don't fill it with food products and try to sell it).
posted by stefanie at 7:02 PM on January 6, 2009

To expand a little bit more on what leslies said: you can't reuse food jars like this for canning and preserving, as their glass is not rated for multiple reheats of the kind the occurs when canning, and will shatter.

They have to state this since the jars that you ARE supposed to use for home canning get a bit expensive and it's really tempting to reuse the glass jars that you were going to recycle/trash instead.

Makes me sad, especially since you can't buy home-canning-rated baby-food-sized jars anywhere.
posted by GardenGal at 7:52 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

you can't reuse food jars like this for canning and preserving, as their glass is not rated for multiple reheats of the kind the occurs when canning, and will shatter.

Really? I can't speak to pressure canning, but I've certainly re-used grocery jars for regular canning without any shattering. Maybe the risk of shattering is a bit greater, but they are still usable.
posted by ssg at 9:45 PM on January 6, 2009

I think it's been said, but the single use designation is for the processor and not the consumer. It means "not refillable".

Gardengal, I buy 4 oz Ball canning jars at the hardware store.
posted by cali at 11:34 PM on January 6, 2009

We package our beer in single-use bottles. The spec sheet for the bottles indicates that they should not be put through multiple pressure / depressure cycles as it may affect their integrity.

Occasionally we have customers who ask us why we don't take bottles for re-use. Once they have been outside my custody, I have no idea what they have been used for, or, for instance, if they might have taken a glancing blow sufficient to damage the integrity. Cleaning them would be a pain, and they are not rated for multiple use, though I do re-use my own bottles for my own homebrew, aware of the risks.

For your application of storing dry solids at ambient conditions (ie, not pressurised) I can't see how re-use of your jars would be a problem.
posted by sagwalla at 12:13 AM on January 7, 2009

You "can't use them for caning" because you might sue them if something breaks. My friends re-uses my spaghetti sauce jars for canning, with no problem at all. Americans(don't know about the rest of the world) are extremely risk-averse, and risk-conscious. They're fine. Glass is an excellent material for re-use because it's easy to get it sterile, or at least very clean. It picks up less flavor from whatever's stored in it, it's transparent, and it's non-toxic. There is a slight risk of breakage.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2009

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