Saving the planet is something we’ll need to tackle together – governments, corporations, people. People create the demand for variety, and corporations exploit the free market to deliver. And over-deliver they have. Look at our trash bin on any given day. There is just so much un-recyclable non-reusable packaging. In our parents’ heyday, they had standard milk and soft drink bottles that were collected and reused with minimal fuss. However, the saturation of the industrial age led to corporations making small changes in shape, size and layers of packaging to create illusions of product differentiation. It fed the narrative that “exclusivity” and “luxury” was desirable. I use Oculus and Apple products. I just treated myself to some muscat grapes. Look at the packaging: layers upon layers of unnecessary “luxury” that have a volume many times greater than the products themselves. These create no value, and head straight into the waste bin, or recycling bin (and if we are lucky at least some small percentage of these actually are recycled)
Many countries have pioneered initiatives to limit packaging. France, Spain, Germany, to name just a few of the big ones. However, as long as there is an international free market, the market forces will always triumph, and environmentalists are fighting a losing battle.
Is it possible to adopt some standards for packaging? Yes, it is, so that we can still enjoy our multitudes of products. Products can already be differentiated by their printed labels in every shape and colour. That is their agency. Structures and constraints are lacking, and that is precisely what we – governments, corporations and people can rectify. Together with the promises (and some wishes) of #Cop26, the time has come for multilateral standards in packaging for minimal waste, maximum re-use and recycling.
We, as a species, empowered as we are, need to limit our own choices in that way. For our own survival.