Loop: Lock in the consumer

A new packaging system has been announced with a great fanfare. Many of the world’s biggest suppliers of consumables are combining in getting rid of single-use packaging, and possibly the supermarket.

Remember the old milkman who brought bottles that could do a dozen trips before needing to be recycled? This is the modern equivalent. You order your products from participating brands online. A truck delivers a box filled with stainless steel or refillable glass containers of stuff. When you’ve emptied them, you order the next lot, and swap empty for full.

This has several huge advantages compared to the current model.

  • One delivery truck uses far less energy than an armada of mothers going to the supermarket.
  • Sturdy containers can be sterilised and refilled many times, reducing the waste problem choking our world, and using far less embodied energy.
  • Big business can save a lot of money by eliminating many more employees.

Hold it! That last one is a big plus for the 1%, but is further wrecking many lives. Will those ex-supermarket checkout chicks be able to afford to buy their groceries at all?

Yes, but only if the world economy is reorganised along sane lines, like universal guaranteed income in some form. Read Inventing the Future by Denis Gabor.

My main immediate objection is that this plays with superficial symptoms, while worsening the cause: consumer society. Customers are locked in to participating brands. Again, the big companies win. People can feel good while being milked. It’s more buy, buy, buy, which is still wrecking our world, packaging or not.

Yes, it’s an improvement over the current crazy model, but one that nevertheless pushes us closer to an unlivable world.

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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