I get bees in my bonnet, get obsessions that I cant let go, but that I suppose is part of the raison d’etre of a designer to recognise problems and to attempt to solve them.
At the moment I am becoming increasingly concerned with packaging. It’s very easy to be become a waste and recycling obsessive. For many of us there is real pleasure to be had from minimising the amount of waste that goes in the rubbish bin and maximising the amounts going into the recycling containers. When we put out our bins on a Friday, the competitive Hemingway family bristle with self satisfaction when our plastic, and paper recycling volume towers over our neighbours and our non recycling wheelie is the smallest size on offer with its lid is firmly closed whilst our neighbours bulge with black bin bags full of waste, most of which could have been recycled if they had only, like us, they had stood over their kids with the threat of a walk along the beach filling black sacks with jetsam and flotsam rather than an afternoon playing in the garden with their friends.
But I have taken my waste, recycling and packaging obsession further. I can’t stop looking at the amount of crap that ends up on verges. I despair at council workers who seem to aspire to being conceptual artists in the way that they cut the grass and leaving a display of sliced fizzy drink cans and plastic bottles in the place of long grass. I go for a run 4 times a week armed with half a dozen carrier bags which I fill with the discarded detritus of the chav diet; crisp packets, cola, and “supersize” paper cups with clowns on the side (the adrenalin part of this process is sneaking the bags into peoples bins. I cant carry six bags for 8 miles and I’d look like a tramp running a marathon, it takes guts to keep bending down every few yards to pick something up but its done wonders for my stomach muscles and takes that “outdoor gym” concept to another level)!
I spend half my runs looking for solutions. At first I thought the answer was packaging tax. Packaging can help food stay fresh for longer and in the case of my pet hate the unopenable (unless you have a Stanley knife or axe lying around),“blister packs” there can be a security element. I would run along thinking “But surely if we have managed to get the public on the road to understanding the benefits of and to feeling good about recycling we can go a step further and actually get the public to embrace less packaging in the first place. There is a significant group of consumers out there who now routinely choose organic and these in marketing terms are the “leaders” who set trends and are there sat gagging for the next “we are doing something positive with our consuming” trend”. But there is now evidence that in the case of food, there is more waste from loose items than blister items because of damaging. And anyhow we are talking about chavs here, what sort of education or peer pressure persuade them to stop winding down their windows and cobbing their burger packets on to the verge? Have you ever tried confronting one of these verge litterers at traffic lights and been threatened with a sound beating?
A modern day version of those “litter defence volunteers “ style ads from the 60’s and 70’s (maybe getting that comedienne Catherine Tait to do an “Am a bovvered “ routine?) might help but a quicker solution could lie with designers. Can we design a verge planting regime that hides rubbish and looks lovely? Can we design verge maintenance machinery that collects the rubbish as well as dealing with the cuttings? Or should everyone be running along roadsides with Tesco bags full of rubbish?