Day 48 – If I were in charge

4 Nov

and I’m not, I would make a few changes around here. First up would be packaging. I am absolutely sick and tired of how products are packaged – specifically in the grocery store.

Before I get started I want to concede that some industries have got their act together. The Canadian domestic beer companies (Molson, Labatts) have standardized their bottles and they have a system in place to have them recycled. This is good. Some of the juice and milk providers have done the same with their cartoned beverages. Also good.

But others are not so organized. The makers of condiments have all sorts of wacky designs for their containers that, while pretty to look at, could be more efficient. Here’s what I mean.

Most jars are round. Not all, but most. A jar with a radius of 5 cm and a height of 10 cm will have a volume of about 785 cm cubed (if we assume the jar is a cylinder). Now a cube-shaped container of the same dimensions would have a volume of 1000 cm cubed (I can’t find the superscript). This is a 21.5% increase in volume! But there is a cost – your cylinder jar has a surface area of 417 cm sq. while the cube-shaped one has 30.5% more surface area (600 cm sq.)

Requiring industry to not use cylindrical jars would result in increased costs that would be offset by two things:

  1. requiring every company to use the same style of containers – with increased production comes decreased unit cost
  2. providing paid recycling serves for said containers – with a large enough system it becomes way cheaper to recycle than it does to make new containers

I also have a question: when you return beer bottles to the Beer Store for recycling – they clean the bottles and just refill them with beer, right? They’re not melting down the glass or anything crazy like that are they? But what happens to the empty jar of Grey Poupon (from my roommates) that goes in my recycling at home? Does it actually make it back to the Grey Poupon people? My guess is no.

The way I look at it is this: we (society) need to be more responsible with our resources. Reusing our containers is a great start. Maximizing the amount of product contained within them is also important (next time you open a two-four of beer look at all the empty (wasted) space around the bottles). To reduce congestion (and delivery costs) in our inner cities we’re going to have come up with a series of tubes (I’m not joking) to deliver physical object to people’s homes (or close-by depot stations). If the government has standardized on sizes of containers for food and other products, the tube delivery system will be that much easier to implement – if it’s not standard, it doesn’t go in the tube!

In Germany they’ve gone part way on this initiative – all plastic bottles are refundable and they have a very elaborate system of recycling in place. Also because in Europe there is less space than in North America, Europeans tend to design things more size-effectively – their cars are a classic example of this.

I would give industry 10 years to get their act together – come up with container standards for all food items. Tabasco and Heinz would be freaking out because they would say that their unique bottle is part of their brand and their business would suffer. Well I love their products and I would tell them to get stuffed. The times, they are a changing.

We live on an island, people.

If you don't want your grandkids to be living in Mad Max times, you have to start thinking about things like this.

4 Responses to “Day 48 – If I were in charge”

  1. Lottabot November 4, 2011 at 14:42 #

    There used to be a place where everything was standardized. It was called the Soviet Union. And I used to live next to it. I never had any desire to live in it. Still don’t.

    • Die Hard Three November 4, 2011 at 18:57 #

      I was once part of the Teamsters Union. Never a Soviet Union.

  2. Uncle Ross November 4, 2011 at 23:04 #

    You live on an island… I live on a boat.

    • Die Hard Three November 11, 2011 at 14:29 #

      we all live on the island. It’s called the Earth!

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