What a waste

Shoppers should be able to return empty coffee jars and detergent bottles to supermarkets for a refill under Government plans to reduce packaging waste.

Consumers would get a discount on product prices as they would not pay for the container.

Has anybody, anybody at all, thought this through?

Think of instant coffee alone. There are a number of different brands. So we now need to have a bulk package of each of those brands.

We also need to have someone standing there to refill the bottles. We\’re not, under health rules, going to let your average punter dip his empty jar into the bulk package now, are we?

Finally, you do realise that instant coffee attracts water? Sucks it out of the atmosphere until it becomes a rock hard lump?

So our bulk packaging also needs to be airtight.

Which is going to make refilling those jars really all rather difficult.

So no, it doesn\’t appear that anyone has thought this through. For we used to have a system whereby you bought your goods in individually weighed portions from bulk supplies. Just about every shop worked that way 100 years ago. We don\’t use that system now because it\’s hugely more expensive than doing the portioning via machines in one central point.

These fools are seriously proposing a system that we abandoned because it was inefficient…..and they\’re proposing it in the name of efficiency.

Fuckwits all around us…..

13 thoughts on “What a waste”

  1. Trying to refill detergent bottles should be entertaining.
    They could extend the scheme and have in-store cows and hens.

  2. In France you can get wine from a barrel in a supermarket and stick it into any container you bring along, for about 20p per litre (that’s for the vinigary stuff, drinkable stuff is a tad more.

    I agree with the principle of your post though, but I would say this is actually _too_ stupid for even this government to go through with (I think!)

  3. Lidl in Gemany actually have a more efficient system going. They have a machine in many of their store that credits you (25 cents I think) for every ‘scannable’ bottle you bring back.

    You then spend the credits in store, meaning that the machine probably pays for itself over time, the shopper feels virtuous and is incentivised to ‘be good’.

  4. “Consumers would get a discount on product prices as they would not pay for the container.”

    Excellent plan; provided the supermarket charges extra for the filling up, sterilising and all the other bits and pieces. It may be that the feeling of being virtuous is worth the extra cost (in which case fine) or it may not (in which case people won’t do it) – as in SB’s example.

    In South Germany/Austria/Switzerland, they had a system for decades by which all beer and all mineral water was sold in standardised deposit bottles, which cost 15 Pfennings (or 30 cents in Switzerland, rather bizarrely – there was money in exporting empty bottles), in practical terms, it worked absolutely fine (and if you bought cans you were looked down on as a chav), but seems to have fallen by the wayside somewhat in recent years.

  5. Stephen B, I vaguely remember reading somewhere (quite possibly on this blog) that they had some trouble with this bottle credit system, as it costs less than 25c to make a new bottle, so people were manufacturing them just to “return” them.

    I guess the old home delivery+bottle return schemes we have (increasingly had) in this country for milk and soft drinks works as well as they do because the operator knows how many bottles to expect back from each customer.

  6. Couple of points:
    Did the person who wrote this have any realworld experience of buying packaging?
    I have & I’ve often been surprised how cheap it can be. Couple of pence per unit if the order is big enough.
    The advantage of packaging:
    Easier product handling – less stuff gets spoiled.
    Theft protection.
    Control of the quality of the product

    Lets take the last point in conjunction with instant coffee:
    The stuff starts deteriorating as soon as the container’s opened so the first customer to benefit from a bulk dispenser is getting a very different product from the last, particularly on low turnover items.
    The deterioration continues when the products taken home. A sealed instant coffee jar has a shelf life of over a year. After opening? Couple weeks? (Don’t know, here in France instant coffee drinking is the sort of behaviour we don’t talk about in polite company)
    Extend this plan to other, similar, products & the householder is required to shop on little more than a weekly basis to ensure that the larder contains usable goods. That negates the great benefit of bulk buying at supermarkets. The saved shopping time & the reduction in transport costs.

    So the net result of this is increased waste as consumers pitch out stale goods & increased fuel usage on more frequent trips to the store. (In my case that’s around 90km return but I presume inhabitants of Islington don’t have to consider problems like that)

    It is, however another way of rubbishing Tescos & we all want to do that don’t we?

    *Zorro // Jun 10, 2009 at 11:15 am

    In France you can get wine from a barrel in a supermarket and stick it into any container you bring along, for about 20p per litre (that’s for the vinigary stuff, drinkable stuff is a tad more.

    Mind telling me which one? Certainly none of the majors like Carrefour or LeClerk. I think they do plastic disposable bulk barrels at around e3.50 but that’s not quite the point is it. You can buy wine loose at the market. That’s around 90c the litre & not bad

  7. I don’t see a problem. Just eliminate all those confusing ‘brands’. So wasteful, with all their gaudy packaging and advertising jingles. If we all drank Victory Instant Coffee and used Victory Detergent to wash our clothes, it would be so much more efficient.

  8. Dispensing detergents in store?!! Depending upon the contents they may well be classified as irritants under control of substances hazardous to health regulation. At which point there would be an obligation to minimize the chance of spills and skin exposure, by maybe, er, pre-packaging in reasonable sized containers……?

  9. Surely the point is that we would all get our goods cheaper, owing to the packaging saved. Just like recycling saves on rubbish disposal- yes just like that.
    I’m sure it would work fine if we just got rid of the minimum wage- and denied benefits to anyone who wouldn’t take a job filling bottles or recycling junk.

  10. In the future, we won’t even be going to the supermarket, let alone taking our empty coffee jars to be refilled. More and more we will be ordering online, getting stuff delivered, and recycling the packaging.

  11. I think possibly the fact that the people who come up with these ideas have negligible experience of commerce (and usually, indeed, work) means they have little grasp of actual market values of anything- as such they vastly overestimate the costs of things like packaging, as commenter pj suggests. And because they don’t understand economics, they don’t understand that cheap things are cheap because they use few valuable resources. This would apply for instance to the plastic bag jihad as well.

    Mind you, maybe supermarkets dug their own graves on this one when they started releasing “basics” style ranges in deliberately cheap looking packaging, and saying things like “because it’s only printed in one colour, it’s much cheaper and we pass the saving on to you the customer”. The saving on packaging costs of a “basics” label compared to a normal label must be trivial compared to the sale price of the goods.

  12. You also neglected to mention this little gem-

    “Ministers also outlined plans for the easier prosecution of supermarkets and manufacturers guilty of using excess packaging. Councils favour a fine of up to £50,000 per offence to force stores to cut back on the plastic and cardboard they use.”

    Excess Packaging Police!. The mind boggles, truly boggles. How did we get this way?

  13. These are just cutting edge Roundhead sumptuary laws. No biggie, they’ll come, they’ll go, they amuse me vastly.

    I look forward with great delight, really, I do, to the upcoming dress codes. Yuppers, if you don’t dress like mother Gaia wishes, snails or snail darters or darts, or something, will die. problem is the great prophet O has not yet revealed the proper dress. Robes? Jeans? Special cloth, like hemp, what? what? I need to know.

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