Whose responsibility is it to ensure packaging doesn’t become landfill?
A main focus of Tate Britain’s current exhibition ‘Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process’ is on the waste produced by our consumerist culture.
There were a series of images that particularly struck me: bundles of waste preparing to embark on their next chapter through recycling, alongside photographs depicting the terrifying scale of the areas we’ve deemed landfill. Both were full of pieces of ex-packaging, still bearing their maker’s mark, only while the former instilled hope of a sustainable system, the latter represented a failure in the chain. Perhaps these abandoned materials stand for a breakdown in communication between manufacturer and consumer, after all, the primary objective of packaging has classically been to seduce users into purchase rather than educate on their disposal.
Both brands and consumers have a responsibility to protect against needless waste but the former are in a position to spark a seismic shift towards making this ideal a reality through facilitation and encouragement. They find themselves in the privileged position of influence but if this is only used to boost sales, it becomes an abuse of that power. Not for reasons of misguidance or dishonesty but for failing to inspire consumers to take action in the prevention of waste.
Packaging continues to promote the brand’s name long after the product’s consumption, and with it, continues to be their responsibility and represent them. Until we achieve 100% recyclability or biodegradability in the substrates we use to package, there unfortunately will continue to be a place for landfill, but there will never be any use in advertising to a hole in the ground.