The illusion of Recycling

Have you ever sat down and really thought about some of the things we accept as being fact. The current fad of believing you have some control over the destruction of the planet by recycling is interesting.

It IS a fad by the way! It as much a fad as Coca-Cola, yo-yos and hula-hoops. The kind of recycling that most consumers in Australia are capable of is just a panacea for the guilt we feel by living such wasteful and energy expensive lives. We have become programmed to see the world in a haze of consumer fantasy and neediness. It is not only corporate and social  programming causing us to see recycling as some sort of gallant process but most of us conspire to avoid facing the facts we don’t want to face. We are complicit in the recycling scam.

Recycling by consumers passes the responsibly for creating unnecessary waste from the people who create it to the people who use it. It allows the manufacturers to continue creating items that end up in oceans and land fill. We want to have thirty different washing machine detergents in clean, new, single-use containers seducing us and contributing to our feeling of self-worth so we avoid looking the whole recycling debacle firmly in the face. We are co-conspirators with the people who are burying the planet in shit.

We don’t want our already shaky grip on our lives to have to bear too many uncomfortable changes so we refuse to open our minds to things right under our noses and desperately needing to be dealt with.
There might be thirty or a hundred different brands of clothes-washing detergent on the shelves in the little Coles supermarket in my town. Not one of them can be obtained as a refillable box or bottle. I don’t mean the cute little plastic/vinyl, single-use refills  we saw when a few people first started noticing waste was a problem but refillable without single-use packs.

This would be the kind of thing where someone needing washing-powder grabs their container and heads in to a store that has huge dispensers containing hundreds of litres of the stuff. You stick your little bottle or bag or box under the nozzle and pull the handle. Each time you pull the handle a measured amount comes out until your container is as full as you would wish. Supermarkets don’t like you having control over the size of the portions by the way. They have developed immensely complex profit models which need you to buy the portions they want you to buy

There would be no more pretty bottles to shout your social status from your shopping basket. No more endless bargains and importantly, every bottle will be reused until it is lost or destroyed because the containers will cost real money to replace. How many of us would willingly give up the social status our products confer on us and replace it with a scratched and much used generic container?
Recycling allows consumers and corporations alike to avoid this option. They want to avoid losing all the value adding and competitive marketing they get from bombarding you with advertising and socially engineered product design. They would also have to give away using a pile of products which are little more than the same thing in fancier containers and with a higher price.

We have become accustomed to shiny rows of sterile products. Rows of huge dripping vats would take some of our feeling of technological and thus cultural elitism out the shopping cart.

How bad can it be? There is absolutely no reason for rolls of electrical tape to come in individual bubble packs or packs of three. There is no need for pencils and biros or almost any office supply to come in their own individual bubble packs. I can actually remember when even things like staplers and scissors came in boxes of many hundreds and you grabbed one or several directly from that box.

Back to the commercial math. Supermarkets sell the portion they find brings them the best profit. Back again to the power of advertising on every item and the power of socially engineered containers with the mind boggling array of colors and text. Back to a building that is totally engineered to peeling the dollars out of your pocket.

The ergonomics and the economics and the psychology of crap! The greatest show on earth for most consumers happens as we walk the isles. We love to be seduced. It adds to the feeling that our lives have value and it even gives us yardsticks to measure that value. It caresses our ego and whispers sweet warm lies about our place in the world. We become addicted to it. How cold seems a world without the endless bright shelves of shiny stuff?

And so we turn our faces away from the obvious crime that supermarkets and their shelves represent. We are complicit and we are all the more passionate in hiding our guilt by pretending recycling is some kind of answer recycling.

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