h a l f b a k e r y
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I shall explain this idea by referring to glass containers - obviously it could be extended to apply to any type of container.
Recyclying is expensive and leads to waste when glass becomes contaminated with other glass colours etc. Reusing containers would be a lot cheaper but isn't viable because
there are so different designs, so why not legislate to permit only about 10 different glass bottle and jar designs to be used. Then recycyling would involve checking for defects (can be done automatically), cleaning (to sterilise the glass and remove the labels) and reuse. I wouldn't mind if all red wine came in the same green bottles, all white wine came in the same clear bottles, a single kind of screwtop 1l bottle was used for olive oil, orange squash, spirits, a single kind of big jar was used for mayonnaise and pickles, a single kind of medium jar was used for honey and jam and a single kind of small jar was used for mustard, capers, etc.
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||But think of all the weird halfbakery ideas that could never come to fruit in such a world!
||Better yet, in many cases you don't actually have to sell in glass jars, just a sealed package. So if (e.g.) mayonnaise were sold in sealed plastic bags, you'd just buy a single mayo jar and reuse it. Still have to recycle the plastic, though.
||So much of visually appealing packaging comes from beautiful glass design that I, for one, don't want to see this approach adopted.
||Problem: I agree with both [hip] and [bris]. I know, a compromise! Stamp a simple bar code on the bottom of standardized bottles. Charge a deposit for all bottles, but only give the full deposit back for barcoded bottles - the rest just get market rate.