Comment 51251

By adrian (registered) | Posted November 07, 2010 at 21:00:59

In a way, the focus on the "recycle" portion of the slogan has actually made the "reduce" and "reuse" parts less effective, because recycling serves as kind of a balm to the conscience. It's easy to feel better about consumption when you recycle, because it's easy to think that the waste you throw into the recycling bins will serve some good at some point, but this is hardly guaranteed: lots of stuff that you think you can recycle is not actually recyclable, and there are warehouses full of plastic that no one can find a use for.

Mass production of packaging in particular has made society a little bit weird. Today I needed to transfer three small pieces of chicken from my fridge to my father-in-law's fridge, to serve as my son's dinner (he doesn't tend to eat what's on the menu at papa's). I used a small, resealable sandwich bag as the container. I was using it for a 15-minute drive, after which point it would be thrown away.

But I saw it for a moment through the eye's of someone a few hundred years ago: a resealable, waterproof, durable, transparent and flexible container, really, a sort of miracle. A miracle that today I use for 15 minutes and throw away. In retrospect I should have used a reusable container but the thought didn't even cross my mind.

On the other hand, it's just a tiny little bag. Does it really matter?

I recently read a story about Japan's struggling economy. The problem, explained the article, was that Japanese people have stopped spending money. They prefer to save and as a result their entire economy is grinding to a halt. Similar concern is expressed about North Americans' "consumer confidence". We've created a situation where not purchasing stuff that we don't need has dire economic consequences.

Bizarrely, we even want people to buy stuff they don't have any money for: we lower interest rates in an attempt to make people more likely to take loans in order to purchase more stuff, and credit card companies fall over themselves extending credit. Does that ever end, or is the plant to just spend ourselves into a sci-fi future where cheap energy and resources are limitless?

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