Mystery Object 352: Space Seed

The shape of the blob in the middle varies.

The shape of the blob in the middle varies.

Size: A Kit Kat

Recorded: January 2016

Found: Chicago, Illinois USA

Circa: Current

Made: USA (Probably)

Material: High-Density Polyethylene

Status: Known

There’s something strange going on in my neighborhood. I keep finding these things. I’ve seen them in the street and even on the floor and shelves of a local store. Thanks to one of the many jobs I’ve had, I know exactly what they are, but I can explain why they’re being found here.

They’re not supposed to be found at all.

They’re an essential part of a great many people’s lives on a daily basis, but they’re designed not to be seen ever. In fact, the public is never supposed to come in contact with them. They’re supposed to serve their purpose, and then be turned into something else.

There’s nothing at all dangerous about them, it’s just odd (and wasteful) that they’re appearing. They’re always the same general shape, though the middle bit might look different and there are a few varying designs. They’re always about the same size. The thick part in the middle is usually hollow, but not always. Occasionally, they’re a tan or white color, but most often they’re milky-clear. Though I’ve never seen them, I know that bright red and blue ones exist as well.

I’ll bet folks in the industry that makes these have a name for them, but I don’t know what it is. After all, the machine that makes them has the same name as a form of music.

Hint 1: 

Spoiler

No one is trying to make these—they just have to.

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Hint 2: 

Spoiler

They’re most often found in cold places. Even in Florida.

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Answer:

Spoiler

It’s called a sprue (I think), and it’s a piece of plastic that’s necessary for the production process, but isn’t useful itself. In this case, it’s the plastic the fills the hole in the handle of a one gallon milk jug. You might be able to see a few in your grocery store’s dairy case, depending on how fastidious they are. They’re usually collected during the manufacturing process and recycled, but some are missed. You can see some near the end of this video, which demonstrates how bottles are made.

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It's not quite as white as the photo shows.

It’s not quite as white as the photo shows.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s the punched out bit of a handle. When they make a bottle like for milk(the ones I see most often) the open spot in the handle has a little squished bit of extra plastic that is usually punched out and discarded(to be recycled) so the handle is open and clear for your hand to go into/through it.

  2. There’s a connection here to Mystery Object 349. The consensus was that 349 was a bullet mold. I was less sure as I didn’t see a sprue hole. In casting lead bullets you need to pour the molten lead into the mold. Molds have a hole in them so you can do this, and it’s called a sprue hole. The cast bullet thus has a bit of lead from the portion that fills the hole and this is the sprue. When the bullet cools you use a tool (or knife blade) to cut the sprue off.

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