17/10/2014

Moving beyond take, make, dispose.

By Sophie Strang

THE DEMISE OF THE DISPOSABLE SOCIETY- Light-weighting and recycling consumable products are ultimately not the only solutions to waste elimination. We need to move from a disposable society to a retention one by developing high quality durable products that consumers will want to keep for a long time.

Moving beyond take, make, dispose

The global population is expanding exponentially. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, by 2030, it’s estimated that the middle class – the world’s most voracious consumers – will have grown beyond five billion. This will put monumental pressure on our already strained environment and its limited resources. Experts have calculated that if we continue on in this way, in less than fifty years we may have exhausted stores of elements such as gold, silver, indium, iridium, tungsten and many others vital for industry. But could a shift that focuses on keeping products rather than disposing of them be the game-changer?

Throughout its evolution, our modern industrial economy has focused on the linear model of consumption: take, make, dispose. Our obsession with the shiny and new has created an economy in which goods are briefly used, then immediately discarded. But this was not always the case, our great grandparents would be shocked by our wanton waste. They saw thrift and longevity as positive attributes. Perhaps it could be so again?

In terms of sustainability, there’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way. Businesses use materials more efficiently and recycling has become easy and automatic – we all do it on a daily basis. But light-weighting, which is a great option for some, has its limits, can severely damage user experience and simply isn’t appropriate for some brands. And, while recycling is a vital part of our sustainable future, it is not the only answer to sustainability.

Instead of creating economic goods that are designed to be repurchased on a regular basis, there is an opportunity for brands to produce high-quality, rechargeable and upgradable products that consumers will want to keep for years.

According to Louis Lindenberg, Global Packaging Sustainability Director at Unilever, premiumisation and sustainability are not incompatible.

If you design a premium pack that is heavier but stays in the value chain for longer, it will still have a positive effect. We look at the entire value chain when we’re designing new products. We think about which materials to use, where those materials will end up after purchase and how we can help to keep them in the loop.

Designing products to be durable instead of disposable will enable brands to create complex and involving user experiences, and importantly, to foster long-lasting relationships with consumers.

Want to find out more? This article is an extract from our strategic journal, Absolem. Request a copy here.

 

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