We know now that in the future we will use less packaging - so why don't we act now?
3rd November 2010
... Comments

in the 1950's and 60's people used to love science fiction.  Everybody from Flash Gordon to Star Trek and the Jetsons to Dr Who was portrayed in their futuristic worlds with their gadgets and toys.  Star Trek had automatic sliding doors a full 20 years before they were actually available to the earth-bound.  The Jetsons had robotic home helps that we still haven't managed to manufacture reliably.  (Star Trek also portrayed personal hand held communicators without being able to possible conceive of how important mobiles would become). 


So What?


I think most consumer good manufacturers and grocery retailers are daft and possibly stupid - that's what.


To explain.


In the 50's people imagining the future used to draw cars as being silvery roundish things.  This in the days when cars were multi , sharp and pointy.  Cars imagined in comics and cartoons in the post-war years were round and aerodynamic. The people who created those images KNEW WHAT THE FUTURE WAS GOING TO BE LIKE yet it took another 50 years for the vision to become reality. As a very clever Ad man - Martin Jones used to argue - if you know what the future is like,  why does it take so long to make it reality?


So why are consumer goods businesses dense?




We know that in future we have to use less packaging.  People are fed up with elaborate packs, they hate throwing away perfectly re-useable packaging.  One of the worst things about re-cycling is being confronted with ridiculous levels of waste in see-through bags.  


Perhaps we create the demand for vegetables to arrive in cosseted protective covers or for fruit presented on a duvet of polystyrene.  But I really draw the line at hard cardboard washing powder boxes when a plastic bag would have done. The same with dishwasher powder (the leading brand is now available in a low packaging bag - at 20p per kg more than the own label equivalent in an elaborate plastic container.  Whhhyyyyyyy????).


Have a look at the websites of the big retailers to see what they are doing, or rather talking about and not doing.  Plan A is the much envied programme of M&S - grudgingly awarded all kinds of gongs by the food industry an yet do we really think they will achieve their original aims of carbon neutrality?  Have a look at their website - i think it's interesting because they've gone for the heart of the periphery.  Re-cycling laptops (?) a deeply improbable clothes recycling scheme and an energy brooking business washed in finest green.


Elsewhere milk is becoming available in bags rather than bottles although in a system designed to create a forced loyalty to one group and format - it's beta and vhs over again!  Why not universal, why not everywhere?


Come on manufacturers and retailers!! - If Kenco - manufactured by the most dreary food company on the planet - can nevertheless provide packaging that cuts waste by 97% then anyone can.




1) We all know that in 10 years time we wont buy things in elaborate packs.  Mushrooms might just have to take their chances in a paper bag again.  A dead chicken may have to brave it without a protective wrapper.  Something that barely needs to be preserved - like anything that currently comes in a pump dispenser - even less so.  If we know that now, why don't we force big business to change things now. Why do we wait? What are they waiting for? I can think of few things that are more inevitable and yet big consumer businesses look arthritic on the issue.

2)  High Street local businesses have a real advantage here.  For years it looked like the supermarkets were the smart ones. They had all the posh packaging.  Now they just look stupid - creating unnecessary plastic coffins for their mass produced food.  The local independent can give us what we really want  - the stuff we pay the money for without the wrapping we don't value.


If i'm wrong about this, tell me.  I'm just really frustrated by constantly contributing to land fill against my will.



About the Author

David W

Member since: 10th July 2012


I'm the owner of thebestof hammersmith and fulham so I get the chance to write about the borough and all the good things I find as I go around talking to businesses. Join in and tell people about...

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