There was a fair bit of news coverage prior to Christmas concerning the amount of excess packaging in which nearly everything we buy is enclosed.

Everything from bags of crisps to toys seem to be housed in boxes and packets which are far too big for the contents.  I’ve always wondered why crisp bags are normally about twice the size that they needed to be, but thought (perhaps naively) that it was for some scientific reason.

However, like most other things now I think it more likely that manufacturers feel the need to have larger packaging to make their product look better - a larger item therefore better value for money.

Unless there is a widespread amnesty where all manufacturers agree to change their packaging at the same time, then it will be a brave company which takes the first step - their products are going to look pretty weedy on the shelves next to their similarly priced competitors who appear to be twice the size.

You know things have gotten out of hand when you unwrap your Christmas presents, take all the actual gifts from their boxes and then sit back to find the pile of empty boxes is dwarfing the pile of presents.

With the current trend for trying to recycle everything in sight, wouldn’t it make more sense to just stop making the unnecessary things in the first place rather than making huge cardboard boxes just to ask purchasers to then recycle them?

What really irks me though, what really gets my goat is the “throw away” culture that we have developed into.

Who is to blame - the consumer or the manufacturer?

On the one hand it’s easy to blame the consumer, after all noone can force someone to buy something, but we are constantly bombarded with adverts 24/7 and very little of these concentrate on anything other than informing us that whatever we have is not enough - we need these newer and better products.

It could be argued that anyone with a little common sense and a lot of will power and self control should be able to let this wash over them and only purchase things that they do actually need, not to buy things indescriminately.

One area in which the consumer cannot be faulted, in my view at least, and is 100% the manufacturer or retailer’s fault is when it doesn’t make financial sense to continue to use whatever product it is you already have.

I’ll give an example - when shopping at the weekend I tried to buy a refill for an air freshener spray.  In Tesco, the refill was about £2.45, or you could buy a whole new unit with a refill for £1.83 - okay it’s not a huge saving but nobody in their right mind would buy the refill would they?

Or was it a test to see whether I’m part of this wasteful society and I failed?

Another example are printer cartridges - a couple of years back an aunt of mine bought a Lexmark inkjet printer and when the time came to replace the ink cartridges she found that they actually cost so much to replace that she was cheaper just throwing away the printer and buying a new one complete with cartidges.  Surely this can’t be allowed?

I assume the manufacturers in this case were following the business model which has been successfully implemented by people like Sega in the past.  When I was growing up there was a huge battle between Sega and Nintendo to see who would be the king of the console sales.  In order to boost these sales, the consoles would be offered at lower and lower prices just to make the sales figures look good, so much so that Sega were reportedly losing a fair amount of money on every console they sold.

Why was that a good idea?  Well at the time all games came on cartridges - cartridges manufactured by Sega which meant that anyone producing a game for their Megadrive console had to pay Sega the going rate.  This then allowed Sega to claw back the money they had lost on the hardware sales - once a console was in someone’s home then they were obliged to buy games for it and line Sega’s pockets that way over time rather than with a huge initial outlay.

I suppose it’s a similar tale now with mobile phones as a provider is willing to give away the latest phones in the hope you will sign up with them and spend money on calls and text messages with their network.

This kind of plan doesn’t work with inkjet printers though, as I’m sure Lexmark and others will have found out by now - but will they have changed their business practises?  Sales of their ink cartridges may have been fairly low but the sales figures of their printers must have been sky high so they may feel it’s the right way to go.

For their business it may indeed be the way to go, but for our society and the world in general surely we should be heading in exactly the opposite direction.