Why should only the rich enjoy material comforts? Don't the poor too have a right to enjoy comforts as long as they can afford them? If the materials cannot be afforded, then why not provide them with a scaled down version?
If you know me well, you know that I am setting you up for something that is not really black and white. Not really cut and dried, if you think that the phrase "black and white" does not pass the JEDI test. But then if you claim that "cut" is violent, then, well, I am out of idioms in this context. So, I will get to the point instead ;)
A couple of decades ago, as India's consumer population began to explode, multinational corporations drooling over the profits to be realized from selling goods to the rapidly growing middle class faced a challenge: Millions of Indians wanted those products but lacked the cash to buy them.
It was like when I was on a tight budget as an undergraduate student. It was not uncommon for us students, and many other patrons at the tea stalls, to ask for a "one by two" in which a glass of tea (yes, literally served in a glass) would be split between two glasses. Hence the "one by two."
That was possible because it was tea that we drank right there. But, if one wanted to buy shampoo and lacked the cash to pay for it, it is not as if the shop owner can pour a few tablespoons of shampoo to the customer's jar, right?
(An aside: A reminder that the word shampoo entered the English language from the Indian subcontinent during the colonial era and is derived from the Sanskrit root chapati (चपति), which means to press, knead, soothe.)
Perhaps at this point you are thinking, "if they cannot afford to buy shampoo, then why do they want to buy it? Why not stick to using native products like shikakai?" Indeed, there are better alternatives. But, as long as we buy and use shampoo and soaps, we lack any standing to tell others that they do not need shampoo and soaps, correct? Recall the story that is attributed to Gandhi about him advising a young boy not to eat too much sugar?
Multinational corporations correctly understood that young men and young women even in villages and small towns wanted to buy their products and would--but, only if they were in small and affordable packages.
The sachet retail revolution happened.
(Yes, you can substitute in place of India any other country that is nowhere as affluent as the US or, heck, even Portugal. And instead of shampoo, you can think of many, many other products. As I noted in this recent post, even in grandmas' villages, dal and spices and oils come in prepackaged quantities in sachets.)
Sachets after use become lightweight plastic waste that cannot be recycled. Further, in countries that do not have trash collection services, used sachets can be found all around. In urban areas, one can easily imagine them jamming up the storm water drains too.
So, do the poor too have a right to enjoy comforts as long as they can afford them?
If the poor buy sachets that they can afford, and if the sachets are contributors to pollution, then should we ban sachets and make the products beyond the reach of the poor? Should we fault governments for not providing for trash collection services even as they spend gazillions on their military? Should multinational corporations be held responsible for (a) marketing such products, or (b) selling such products that add to pollution, or (c) all of the above?
In this lengthy report, Reuters brings together all these issues and more for you also to think about how you might approach this problem that ultimately affects us all, irrespective of where we live.
I will end with this about which I have written a lot, like even just over a month ago. Consumption is practically what the modern economy is all about, once we get beyond basic survival. We buy things that we want, or we don't need, and sometimes we even buy stuff that we neither want nor need. We have grown addicted to stuff, and getting rid of this addiction is impossible it seems. The sachet is a symptom of consumption; it is not the problem.
Let me know where the Consumers Anonymous meets; I have lots to sort out myself.