The War Against Plastic and Consumerism

We, humanity, have made a really big mistake back in the early 1900s when the first true plastics were invented. Today, this seemingly innocuous material has invaded our lives, our homes and has pervaded us with its presence even in places where we don't normally go to.

Picture from Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Hi, my name is Daniel Garcia, an ordinary Filipino blogger and I am writing this not just as a contest entry for's Product Improvement contest, I'm also writing this with full conviction.

I don't care if I don't win, I just want something to be done about this:

A major overhaul has to be done with the whole consumer system and it's not just about replacing plastic bags with paper bags - it has to do with a complete rethinking of the consumerist mindset.

It's about changing how products get distributed to the market from the wholesale level to the retail level. It's about cleaning up the North Pacific Gyre. It's about the future. Our future.
First of all, I'd like to start with a disclaimer. I am not a scientist nor can I even call myself an environmentalist. So over the course of this article, I may in some parts make mistakes as to the accuracy or the veracity of my ideas or some information provided. With that said,I'll still exert my best efforts in giving information and linking to their sources as much as I could. Moreover, my intentions are simple - the problem of plastics has to be resolved sooner. 
First Things First - Product Improvement Contest

We need to change how products get distributed. 

Companies manufacture colorful and decorative packaging meant for the individual. If you want to buy shampoo, you buy shampoo in a bottle or a sachet. If you want to buy mineral or purified water, you buy it in a bottle. If you want to buy noodles or ramen, you buy them inside plastic packaging or a plastic bowl.

While economically optimal for manufacturers because of plastic's cheap cost, the lack of willpower to change this is going to be disastrous for the future.

The solution:
Distribute these liquids through canisters. 

So instead of groceries piling up items like this:

groceries in transit

Liquid items such as shampoo, cooking oil, water, oil, alcohol, dishwashing liquid and others would be dispensed on reusable canisters brought by the buyer.

These liquids will then be distributed a little bit like this Starbucks coffee dispenser:

Starbucks coffee dispenser

Instead of coffee, a similar machine would dispense shampoo, conditioner, cooking oil, etc.

On the consumer side, people would  then use reusable steel canisters or any other type of non-plastic and biodegradable container.

This is one of the main challenges to the proposal I'm making which could further be subdivided into these three:

  1. How do you make people buy their own liquid containers and 
  2. What design would be optimal for consumers to make them at least bear the burden of lugging these eco-friendly containers just so they could do away with their normal routine of buying everything wrapped in plastic.
  3. Cost

Here are a few possible avenues to address these concerns:

  • Legislate it. Whether in America, China, the Philippines or elsewhere in the world, the most effective way to force people to use these liquid containers is through laws that will coerce them alongside a law that will prohibit the manufacture and selling of plastic bottles. There might be some constitutional barriers in most democratic nations, but if they craft the law and present it in a competitive and capitalistic light without infringing on any liberties, it is possible. On the part of the plastic bottle manufacturers, I also see an opportunity for them to evolve their product lines and compete for the best, most efficient and environmentally friendly containers. 
  • Container Design. If the legislative avenue does not work or is not feasible, then innovation should work twice as hard. For this to succeed, companies and their product designers would have to compete to provide the most efficient way for consumers to make their purchases and make them willing to use these containers. 
    • One idea I have in mind is a complete redesign of steel canisters to compartmentalize them into segments. Hence, if the consumer is going to buy shampoos, conditioner and lotion - the canister would be sub divided into at least 3 parts. 
    • Another idea I have is two have 2 kinds of canisters: 1 for edible and consumable liquids like cola, water, cooking oil and a separate one for non-edible non-consumable liquids like insecticides, liquid floor polish, etc. 
    • Another solution I have in mind is for these canisters to come with a backpack or a bag to make it easier to lug around. 
For the contest: 
  1. Product to be improved: plastic bottles and containers - we need to destroy the very concept of the plastic container.
  2. Benefits to the consumer: the future of the world their children will live in

Some related background information:

  • Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States (MIT Press
List of websites that are educating, researching about the North Pacific Gyre