Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. - Euripides
I remember when I was young, and some of you do, too (remember when YOU were young, that is), that just about every liquid that one wanted to buy came in a glass container, upon which a deposit was paid. With this simple ploy, people easily learned to take care of glass containers, and they were recycled in a manner much simpler than any recycle program of today. The same containers were taken back by the bottler (whether that might be of soda pop, beer, milk, juice, or whatever), washed, and used over and over. Even motor oil was more economically dispensed (in bulk, actually) at the local service station in glass containers that were kept on the premises, so that they could be used and re-used over and over. For greater quantity, depending on the liquid, one gallon glass 'jugs' were common, as well. Granted, not all glass containers were in fact recycled, but we all know today that glass is easily recycled, right?
A glass milk bottle looked much like this, but I don't remember foil closure. What I remember was a paper, or card stock lid.
Also, paper and cardboard were much more widely used for packaging and for transport, from the manufacturer, to the wholesaler, to the retailer, even to the consumer carrying his grocery purchases home in the cardboard boxes that the store had accumulated during the shelf stocking process. Some of you remember that when buying groceries, the 'box boy' put our purchases into boxes (the same boxes that the merchandise was in when it was delivered to the store; what a concept), and this made it easy to carry the stuff to the car, or even all the way home by whatever means we had at our disposal (the basket over the front wheel of a bike?). There were also paper sacks, of different sizes and material, depending on whether you were bagging groceries or hot nuts (yes, you could also buy cashews, peanuts, just about any variety of salted nuts, that were kept warm, under a heat lamp in a display case (most commonly in the drug store, but some other places offered them as well), or bulk candy, or a loaf of bread, or whatever. And, of course, the 'box boy' did become a 'bag boy' for a time, before the use of plastic bags become more widely spread.
And, of course container manufacturers also discovered that heavy paper, or light card-stock could be coated, first with wax, and then, later on, some kind of plastic. This coating then allowed containers of paper to be used to hold at least non-carbonated beverages. So, we had milk cartons (I guess we still have them, in smaller sizes), and juice cartons. But, the world – not just the U. S. – has gotten lazy, and has found it more convenient to ignore the possible cost savings that are available with just a bit of effort.
So, we are overwhelmed with crappy plastic bags that won't last through very many re-uses, we cannot find cardboard boxes at the supermarket because they have cut a deal with somebody to recycle them. Milk and juice and soda pop, and even beer is now being put into plastic containers that just take up room in landfills, with little chance that they will ever contribute anything else to the environment. And, as if aluminum cans aren't bad enough, have you noticed that some brewers are now trying to force aluminum bottles on their suckers, er, um…..customers?! Coors & Bud, I believe……..
For those of you who live in the U. S., maybe you are not aware that much of Latin America still uses glass bottles for Coca Cola, and other soft drinks, and for beer. When you want to buy these products, you must first pay (yes, this is an initial added cost) a deposit on however many full containers you want to buy. But, once that deposit has been paid, from then on, all that has to be done is to take the empties to whatever store you choose, and exchange the empties for full, paying only the cost of the actual product. Over time, this should reduce production costs since the manufacturer should not have to pay for an ongoing demand for new containers. At worst, a portion of the containers will obviously be lost to breakage or other loss, but at best, this will be a fraction of the current replacement cost for all new containers. This does – in a manner of speaking – force people to recycle, but it also saves so much money, while helping preserve our environment. This obviously means less litter along the sides of the roads, and less trash to be picked up with the rest of the garbage. Isn't that a good thing?
And, speaking of packaging in general, does anybody remember how things like Lincoln Logs, or Tinker Toys were packaged? The package in which these toys were sold was a cardboard tube, with a metal bottom and a screw-on metal top (made of tin, I believe), right? Now, what is wrong with that kind of packaging? If it got damaged, or worn out, or in some other way became trash, it would degrade naturally, a lot quicker than any plastic container/package you can think of. Anybody remember Cellophane? Cellulose? Celluloid? These were plastic like materials, made from wood, or cotton, or (little irony here, no?) Hemp. No oil! What a concept!
So, here's my contribution to a new world order, a cleaner environment, prevention of global warming, less trash in the oceans and landfills, lower packaging costs, more bang for the buck, and that warm, fuzzy feeling we all want so bad: Let's take a step back, instead of all the time thinking we have to go forward. Instead of more oil demand, let's decrease that demand, and find ways to meet at least one need the old fashioned way, by using organic materials for packaging!