I had an epiphany the other day, and it was a pretty alarming one.
It started with something fairly innocuous; I had decided to try a different brand of shampoo, selecting one that I had used before my current brand. Looking at the displays of shampoo, I began considering the way that companies reinvented their products, and the implication of the fate of the stock of the old products. I would guess that much of the old stock gets sold at a reduced price, mainly through bargain outlets such as B&M and Poundland. Then, I got to contemplating about how full the shelves were. I had come in to buy one bottle of shampoo, one of perhaps 20 of the same on the shelf.
Shops like to keep their shelves full, so generally, they will always have more stock than will actually be purchased by end users such as me.
So, it occurred to me that manufacturers will always make more than is needed. This uses up resources and creates waste, the latter I have seen for myself – one of the companies I worked for took in drums filled with bottles of shampoo, body lotions, perfumes, shaving gels etc., for disposal, on a pretty regular basis.
In a world of ever depleting resources, this need to keep over producing will not sustain itself, yet it doesn’t seem to be that big an issue – it may worry a few environmental activists but I don’t think it really registers on the average person on the street. So, there is no real drive to reduce it. Even in food retailing, which sees a lot of wastage, you see the occasional story focusing on the food been thrown out. However, you very rarely see anyone stand up and say “hang on, why are you making so much in the first place?”.
To me this is actually a bigger issue than coal fired power stations, our obsession with fast motor cars and the usual environmental issue de jour. It is because it is the basis of our whole economic system, “pile ’em high, sell ’em low”, where we are actively encouraged to buy things we don’t need and are urged to by attractive displays of products of which we will only want a small quantity.
How we actually go about putting a stop to this I don’t know.
I just know one thing for sure – I don’t think I will ever look at a bottle of shampoo in the same light again.