Recycling is simply the transfer of producer responsibility for what they produce to the taxpayer who has to pick it up and take it away.aka, "Externalizing Costs," and they are experts at it. Why improve products when you can simply cut costs. It's easier and looks like continued growth, the jet fuel for the stock market.
Problem is, how far can we cut costs? Until employees work for a penny a day. Oh, they've already done that by sending jobs to China under supposed Free Trade agreements when we can't possibly have a level playing field with variable working standards and environmental regulations.
So, labor costs are minimal, what do we cut now? Well, how about shifting all waste onto taxpayers, the planet, and the healthcare industry in the form of pollution. Somebody is gonna have to pay that piper.
Relatedly, a few years ago, a friend of mine was helping his friend's father start up a vodka and whiskey company and were looking for bottle design ideas. I was glad to help, but wanted to address the issue at a deeper level. How can we save costs AND cut waste and the solution was cradle-to-cradle. I guess the business startup never happened, or else the complexity I was proposing was ignored in favor of willful blindness and simplicity.
My questions were, can we make bottles refillable in some sort of return program, i.e. can the bottles be bottles for OUR service forever? That certainly limits the cost of production or purchasing of incessantly new alcoholic vessels.
To that thought, I find this graphic in the treehugger article linked above:
My next question was, if that re-use/re-supply chain was too difficult, can the bottle be adapted into another function, providing another service for the consumer. Thus, buying our product gives them essentially two products. Since that thought, I always notice companies that begin to address similar issues. Two of which, are Bong Vodka (you can guess the adaptability of the bottle, I suppose) and Pom, where the bottles can be reused as vases, which is unfortunately somewhat minimal.
I first found bong vodka at a martini bar out in the 'burbs once and I probably couldn't even tell you what the name of it was and assumed it was such a specialty item that it would be impossible to find again, until locating another supplier, Cafe Rembrandt, a Dutch bar (naturally) in the West End where I'm going to be Saturday night as a matter of fact to see my friend's band play, Shock of Pleasure - official site, myspace link.
By the way, Bongspirits has an artist program which you can see here.