There follows a short bit of middle class annoyance. I feel a certain amount of shame but I have an engineers approach to a solution so bear with me.
Every two weeks I carry a large plastic box full of bottles and jars to the kerb (okay, it’s a grass verge) outside my house and I get depressed. A classic bit of late middle aged, middle class mithering.
Then a big diesel truck comes along and a nice bloke sorts the cans and glass into containers on the truck and off they go.
Of course it’s better than landfill, but those glass jars and bottles are perfectly useable. I keep some to pickle my beetroot and the occasional load of jam and marmalade I might bother to make, but the vast majority end up in the recycle box.
What a stupid waste. Why can’t I go back to a shop, re-fill the jars in some clever, hygienic, fiscally prudent, profitable for the company technological way and save a whole load of hassle.
And that’s just the glass. We have recently been issued with massive sacks to put all the plastic bottles in. We fill it in 2 weeks, hundreds of plastic bottles for milk, fruit juice, shampoo, yoghurt etc etc.
Yesterday I accompanied the Mrs to new supermarket has recently opened in Cheltenham, our nearest large town. I normally try to avoid buying stuff in the big chains, true, you can live perfectly well without stepping foot in a newly built out of town supermarket with ample parking, but it takes a bit of effort.
But yesterday I shrugged and entered a recently opened branch of an American chain called ‘Whole Foods Markets.’ This company started life in Austin, Texas in 1980, it’s expanded over the USA and now there’s a very posh branch in Kensington and now Cheltenham. Quelle surprise!
I’ve shopped in one of their stores in Los Angeles, it’s not cheap but when you’re faced with another pack of sliced soft foam type product with the word ‘bread’ on the packaging, you start to appreciate some actual bread even if it does cost a little more.
Now, I just want to state that I’m not sponsored by this outfit, I’ve only been to this new store once but I was impressed. Not so much by the fact that the array of food on display was spectacular, or by the fact that they source as much as they possibly can from local producers. It was the fact that they are already starting to do what all supermarkets should be doing.
Okay, they are only doing it with wine at the moment, but as always I’m full of optimism.
You can buy wine in bottles like in any store, but at Whole Food Markets you can also fill your own bottle, when you’ve finished the wine you rinse the bottle, take it back and re-fill it. Revolutionary.
Well, not that revolutionary, it’s only a few years back that milk came in bottles that were returned and used again. When I was a kid we got milk from a farm in a little milk churn, butter came in paper and nothing came in plastic. People were still alive, yes, the whole world was black and white and 90% of what we did was dumb, stupid and bigoted, but we didn’t re-cycle because there wasn’t anything to recycle. The family bin when I was a kid was tiny, mainly full of dust from my mums ultra inefficient hoover. Dustbin yeah.
Wine in a re-usable bottle, crazy, you could probably use the same bottle for ten years before you needed to replace the rubber washer on the cap. Madness.
Imagine if you could do the same with milk, jam, mayonnaise, baked beans, in fact all the stuff we currently buy in plastic bottles, cans and throw away jars.
Imagine turning up at your supermarket with a bag full of recently cleaned, re-usable and sealable standardized bottles and jars and re-filling them.
What a hassle! It’s a massive imposition on our freedom, it’s a huge curtailment of our consumer liberty, it must be banned!
We must continue to waste all the resources we have, we must waste as much money as possible recycling materials that have been used for 5 minutes or the way of life we know and love will collapse into a heap of middle class, holier than thou posturing.
Or, it’s quite a sensible and simple to introduce idea with no class connotations.