Thursday, August 30, 2007

Symbolic, Shambolic

A poster on the Eco-innovation blog asked what some IKEA box symbols meant. I may not have been much help:

They're a sure sign that with waste and almost all to do with saving the planet, the process is too often usually more important than the result, symbolized by things going round and round in circles. It doesn't matter if the consumer doesn't have a clue what these things mean or what they can do to help mitigate their inevitable participation in the waste generation process, so long as the manufacturer and/or retailer meet some standards, rules or regs and at least look like they are trying to make things better. Actually it’s the same for most government/LA/quango efforts too, where bazzillions are blown telling us to recycle but few coordinated systems are provided to allow the public to do so sensibly or indeed share what can (or jar or bottle...) go where. All inspired mainly by bonus-driven targets of questionable enviROI, and way too often enforced by threats. I often stop to help folk standing in front of a skip with ‘PEP & HDPE (1-??) only’ written on the side to tell 'em the first is usually a fizzy pop bottle and the second is, or maybe isn't, the other stuff. Probably with a surveillance squad in the house opposite in case Fifi, aged 6, puts the wrong box in the slot. Jargon is all. And just what we need to save the planet is another set of complex initiatives. I’m half expecting a CDR attached to my next pack of Smarties to explain the various carbon footprint and air mile labeling schemes on top of the various supermarket opted-in charts, roundels and traffic lights on health. With a CDR on that to explain the best options for dealing with it too. Which I will not have time to get my head around as I cruise the aisles, and hence ignore. But at least it makes for a good CSR story to run an ad campaign on and wave at the legislators. I'd suggest the time may be ripe for actually getting the disposal systems in order from the moment anything comes out the ground to the point we try and avoid it going back in, with well-spaced process plants, sensible logistical systems, segregation points clearly placed and even more clearly marked and really, really clearly explained and.... a proper incentive programme in place to encourage people to believe it all goes to the right place and makes a big difference. Or, if it doesn't, or can't, be honest enough to explain that too, so folk don't drive their XC90s to the carpark to then find it's off to a Chinese landfill and get disillusioned. Treat the environment and its proactive initiatives as branded items or services to ‘sell’ like any other product, and not some complicated dirty chore with secret stuff only those ‘in the know’ can be allowed to deal with, and there may be a better level of engagement. And if a recycling option isn't ready yet, try reuse (Plug: is ready to share or take your suggestions on what to do with just about anything destined for the bin, which may enjoy another life). I've dallied with this arena a while, and didn't really even know what the first two meant other than 'something to do with recycling’. Or care too much anyway if no one can be bothered to help me understand easily. I just figure if it's a primary packaging material it should be and can be recyclable by now (and, while interesting and nifty, doubt I have ever bought anything or not because its pack is made from recycled materials, though it seems worthy to do and hence advise), so stick cardboard, glass, metal and probably even the odd wrong plastic in whatever doorstep box or supermarket container that comes my way. I think the 3rd symbol means you can turn the thing into a BBQ pit, and the last a Step Reebok stand, but I may be wrong:)

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