The way products are made must change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production. ~ Pete Seeger

Let me add one more to the above statement by Pete Seeger and that is “if it cannot be upcycled” and then we have got it all together.

But, the problem is that industry has not intention to change the design of things. It is the built-in obsolescence that they created after the Second World War that is the cause of our waste problem and of the perpetual growth economy and they will no let go of this principle. That is unless we, as “consumers”, are prepared to make a stand and buy from those that are prepared to make things that fit all the criteria.

In the main such products that fit all or most of the criteria will only be found made by people and companies in small production runs – though there are some exceptions – in small local workshops and factories. This also means that those products therefore are somewhat more expensive than what we have gotten used to over the last couple of decades. On the other hand they are made to last and thus can become heirlooms even in the way many things were in the past.

When it comes to packaging, our greatest source of waste per se, aside from, maybe, food waste, it must be reduced, and where not possible designed and made in such a way that it can have a secondary life through reuse and upcycling or it must be compostable.

Recycleability of products and of packaging materials is not really an issue, as far as I am concerned, as recycling is not the best way to go in the first place because recycling still takes a great deal of energy and often the original material is downcycled rather than upcycled, as in the case of glass, quite frequently, when bottles and jars are ground down and the resultant “sand” is but used for road building.

There are several examples where packaging has been designed in such a way that an secondary use is immediately obvious or even indicated and such designs should become the norm and not the exception.

Not so long ago many products in glass jars actually came in containers that were made with a secondary use in mind as well, such as some mustard types and some chocolate spreads, for example, where the jars were – and in some cases still are – actual reusable drinking glasses. It is not rocket science.

Our general products must be designed again without the built-in obsolescence and with repairability and then ideally in such a way that they can be easily fixed, even by a competent user applying DIY methods, or by making use of, alas most of them no longer exist, small repair shops. It once was that way and it must become that way again, as norm. Anything less will not do.

© 2015