Pi Attitude Zone: Conformity & Stability

Our Throw-Away Consumer Society

Okay, be honest.  When was the last time you found something in your refrigerator that was smelling funny or apparently growing a blue fur coat?  And you threw it in the trash in disgust?

If the last time was less than five years ago, you are part of a bizarre worldwide social phenomenon.

When global economic crises hit, we are all theoretically supposed to tighten our belts, and make whatever money we have go further when we shop for food.  So why, then, are we currently throwing away something close to half the food the world produces?

The idea seems surreal.  Yet a report from Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) has suggested that between a third and half of the four billion tonnes of annual global food production is currently going to waste. Perhaps even worse, this also means that vast swathes of productive land, and an estimated half a trillion cubic metres of irrigation water, are similarly being squandered for no benefit to anyone.

How can this be, with hunger and economic blight so widespread since the financial crisis? Poor infrastructure, slow transportation and inadequate storage facilities are part of the problem.  In part, subsidies paid to farmers may be to blame.  But the biggest culprits, it seems, are human attitudes, consumer behavior, and the marketing practices they engender.

We humans are fussy perfectionists, you see.  We regularly confuse supermarket sell-by dates with consume-by dates, and throw out perfectly good produce “just in case”.  When asked, we express our preference for ‘perfect-looking’ fruit and veg, leading growers to ditch apples with spots on them and oversized or misshapen carrots and parsnips.  Indeed, thirty percent of perfectly wholesome vegetables grown in the UK are apparently left to rot in the fields because of their ‘unattractive’ physical appearance.

It also appears that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, causing us to over-buy on a systematic basis.  Knowing this greedy proclivity among their shoppers, supermarkets bombard us with ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offers, which only add to the appalling overall wastage.

An IME spokesman urges development agencies, governments and international bodies to draw public attention to this aberrational behavior.

Pi says: We need a food fight.  Ultimately the key consumer insight here is that we humans must change our throwaway attitudes, curb our greed and carelessness, and walk away from waste.

Zone: Conformity & Stability Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Consumer Products