It would be much more efficient to use extremely lightweight containers that can be crushed in a reverse vending machine in any supermarket.
That's how returnable bottles and cans work here in Norway (and several other European and Scandinavian countries). At the moment it only covers drinks containers but that is probably because they are the only ones that pose a major littering problem.
This way the energy cost of returning the containers is minimised and the returned material is suitable for immediate, industrial scale, automated recycling.
But of course that doesn't allow the producer to use just any container so it limits their branding opportunities.
Edit: removed repeated link.
On a broader note I often wonder if all the talk about climate change and plastics is not fueled by corporations ready to exploit it. I just cannot believe that a topic can suddenly become so big without an agenda behind it.
Edit: Even better if it can be optimized for shipping, but I know not everything packages into a cube shape easily.
People used to get ice cream in reusable containers.
It spread tuberculosis and cholera. People died.
One of those alternatives is vastly inferior to the other. The ice cream dish has to be cleaned by someone you don't know, producing a result you can't observe.
Glass bowls are designed to be cleaned. That was the original system.
Basically every restaurant and bar will serve you food and drink in reusable dishes, yet we don't see big outbreaks of tuberculosis from them.
>After finishing their ice cream, customers handed back their well-licked penny lick, and the next customer ate from the same cup. Because of the conical openings, Jacks couldn’t keep the narrow point clean if they tried. Penny licks became the perfect vessel for transmitting disease.
I suspect we might be able to improve on this, perhaps with some kind of new fangled sanitising machinery, more suited to this bright new modern age of steam. No, wait, I'm getting it wrong. Remind me, which century are we in again?
>> After finishing their ice cream, customers handed back their well-licked penny lick, and the next customer ate from the same cup. Because of the conical openings, Jacks couldn’t keep the narrow point clean if they tried. Penny licks became the perfect vessel for transmitting disease.
Yes, it says that.
The article also has some photographs of period penny licks. The description in the text doesn't match.
I think this thread is in the 18th, but can't be sure. :)
Considering that there are now cloth diaper services where used diapers are cleaned and reused, where of course you get a bunch of clean diapers, not necessarily the ones your babies had used, I'm sure that reusable food containers can be cleaned and sanitized properly.
For instance, prior to the development of the ice cream cone, street vendors often served their ice cream in reusable glass dishes. Often made of thick glass to create the appearance that they contained more ice cream than they actually did, these “penny licks” were simply wiped out and reused rather than being washed.26 Later in the century the more hygienic “hokey-pokey”—an individual serving of ice cream wrapped in paper—became popular.27 Besides avoiding the unsanitary “penny lick,” the hokey-pokey also discouraged the notorious practice of refreezing unsold melted ice cream and serving it to unsuspecting customers. As melted ice cream provided an ideal environment for the reproduction of bacteria, this noxious product surely caused many food poisoning cases.
Well, surely it doesn't matter as much for non-perishable items? To say nothing of the non-food items.
We don't have such a big problem with them as we used to, because of responses like single-use packaging.
Moving back to reusable food containers is the same basic impulse that tells people they should stop getting vaccines because, after all, nobody catches measles in the modern day.
California tried to outlaw grocery bags provided by the store, instead encouraging you to bring your own bags from home. The morality having been established, it's now very important to my mother to live up to the environmental ideal and bring her own bags. She's been doing it for years.
Those bags have never been washed.
Also, she's a doctor.
I remember reading about an explanation about the sub-packaging of biscuits. Consumers would complain that a pack of biscuits contained multiple packs of biscuits itself. But it all made sense when accounting for the fact that biscuits go stale, and producing them takes more energy than storing them in smaller packages inside the main package.
This all assumes a correct treatment of plastic containers. But my point is that the main issue lies with logistics, that produces lots of CO2, rather than with containers.
The idea makes plenty of sense from both a producer and a consumer standpoint. Packaging, especially when not automated, accounts for a significant portion of the cost of goods for many basic goods.
You already see this in grocery stores: the deli counter and often the nuts/grains sections, and I'd argue the produce section use minimal packaging. Expanding this to other sections seems like a pretty straightforward to reduce deadweight, if consumers adopt the practice.
I think consumers will widely adopt the practice when it lowers, or at least doesn't increase, their grocery bill.
I've seen kids wet their fingers in their mouths and "dip" them into bins as their parents watch, unconcerned.
Do you have a wholesale near you, such as Costco?
Things like prepared vegetables and prepackaged deli meats are getting more popular, not less popular.
Until the value priced product lines and retailers start doing this it's not gonna make a dent whatsoever in plastic usage. This is a nice step but the model is not useful yet because it only works at the top of the market.
Too bad this is only available in a few states in the North East.
There was an interesting thread on reddit just recently that is related:
Setting the tax rates is roughly equivalent to the problem of setting reasonable and effective deposits, but everything else is simpler.
It would be simpler to make producers take back non recyclable/biodegradable waste. Why should excessive waste issues be imposed on government or people instead of the producers?