Recycle more but consume less?

Dick SearleSo. The Government’s consultation about the UK’s material recycling targets is at an end – and the politicians and civil servants are now preparing again to tell UK manufacturing what it expects of us in terms of recycling.

It’s really not my place to dive into all of the consequences and the material details… wherein the devil lurks. However, I surely will have more than one or two things to say about what happened along the way and what may yet happen.

Consider this aspect for starters: As part of The Packaging Federation submission we noted the part of the Government consultation that said that ‘survey after survey shows that consumers believe packaging is a big environmental problem.’

Oh dear. It’s always a shame when the realm of facts is abandoned for the world of beliefs. In our evidence we simply noted that ‘Packaging is a solution as it saves far more waste than it creates and conserves far more.’

I’ll say it again. Packaging is not product. People buy and consume products not packaging. Packaging is merely the delivery system through which the product moves to reach consumers.

And what about those consumers, their beliefs and the politicians that serve them? For example, does the Government – any government – and its politicians ever have anything critical to say about the level of consumption of goods in this country?

What government today would ever presume to get elected by promising consumers less? – fewer goods? less choice? less consumption? It’s not really a runner is it?

Consumers, by and large, want more and more. At least they believe they do. Governments needing to get elected want to go on promising more and more. They also believe they cannot afford to do otherwise. Until that cycle is ever broken our political model will not change.

The truth is that consumers themselves are the origin and cause of ever-increasing consumption. The material evidence of product delivery solutions merely serves to remind consumers how much they consume. They may not like it, but it’s a fact – however embarrasing and inconvenient.

Many thanks again

Dick Searle