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Useful And Fantastic: Wasteful Products – And Customer Power

Val Yule urges us to go to war against wasteful and poorly-designed products.

Don’t waste your grumbling!

If only somebody or some organization could organize postcards or notes everyone could send out to shops and manufacturers about wasteful products. I’ll put a draft at the end of this. It could stop a lot of waste that should not be happening.

Waste such as:

· Packages that once were the right size for the product they contained now having much less product in them, but still the same size and price. Toothpaste tubes an inch shorter, biscuits smaller, packets less full … If only customers could brace for higher costs that they could see, instead of being deliberately misled.

· Fancy shapes of bottles and jars that look as if they contain more than they do. And can’t be re-used for other things.

· Food containers should have their measurements in standard sizes, whether weight or volume, such as 200, 250, 300, so that it is easier to compare like with like, not 375 gm with 340 gm with 349 gm, for example.

· Plastic containers with much more plastic frills to them and less product within – for example, cleaners with very large sprays apparatus, when before they only needed to be squeezed, or plain refills were plentiful – so you did not have to buy a big-spray bottle anyway.

· Vacuum cleaners with quite costly and materials-wasteful throwaway bags, which have to be replaced too often. Alas for the excellent Electrulux vacuum cleaner I had for twenty years with the same cloth bag! Or even vacuum cleaners with paper bags that can be re-used again and again. These do exist, but can be hard to find.

· Very cheap printers that are almost throwaway items, but soon make profits for their makers because the non-re-fillable cartridges last so little and cost so much. Even if the printers and cartridges are faithfully recycled, it costs energy and materials to do the recycling.

· Chairs where the cushion cannot be mended or replaced, so once there is fraying, staining, or a tear, out the whole frame must go too – and if it is one of a set or one of a theatre-full of chairs, the whole set may be thrown out, or trucks take away to landfill all the chairs in the theatre. (Similarly carpets entirely replaced because there is no way to replace just the foot-track that is worn.)

· There was an English firm that made beautiful washable stretch covers for lounge suites, sofas, arm-chairs and bridge chairs – I still have a set that is twenty years old and washed once – but fancy furniture designers make it difficult for a firm to manufacture covers, however stretchy, to fit all the designs of different sizes and shapes they design.

· Fashions for carpets that need constant steam-cleaning, that is costly and wears them out sooner.

· Knickers with good elastic, that is also easily replaceable. Knickers that are winter-warm, not made as close to tissue-paper as is possible. I picked up a pair of bloomers (!!) at a sale – I am amazed at how comfy they are – and probably more hygienic – and who needs figure-hugging jeans all the time?

We still have a pair of ‘Bell’s double-seat briefs’ in use that must be about 20 years old. What true man wants to wear flimsies?

· People near us recently installed two new water tanks. It then rained. One tank was full, the other was empty. It had a leak! This firm needs a shake-up! The local paper could investigate.

“Quality control” must be made to mean ‘The best the firm can afford to make,” not, as it actually tends to be in practice, “the least quality that won’t lose customers”.

This is a moment in time when Australian firms that go for quality have a chance in the market over imports that are cheaper but worse buys in the long run, and adding to our foreign debt.

What a lot of exclamation marks in this piece! But they come free and waste nothing.Don’t waste your grumbling! Do something!


Example of a letter – with a copy to the store, just leave it at the check-out.


I have stopped buying your product because . . .

I want products that do not have misleading packaging
Do not have wasteful designs
Are not single-use
Can be repaired easily
Do not become obsolete so quickly spare parts are unobtainableI will try not to buy your other products until I am assured this fault is remedied
I want quality that lasts rather than low cost but low quality
My personal experience has been . . .

Yours sincerely


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