Trash Metric

Have you ever stopped and analyzed trash? Maybe the trash popping out of plastic bags before being taken away, or those thrown by unconscious people on the sidewalks or the street? For most of us in developing countries, sadly, trash has become part of the urban landscape and we don’t notice it anymore (and act upon it as we should). Much less do we actually stop and see what exactly are the products and brands being thrown away to the ground. “Who digs trash? Gross!”

I’ve heard of “intelligence” practices where some people are paid to analyze the competition’s trash in order to get hold of their “secrets”. It is true that if someone cared to look at our home trash, they would learn a lot about us and our habits.

If your company sells massive consumer products that are consumed-in-the-spot, such as candies, cookies, gums, potato chips or sodas, chances are some of their wraps or packaging will end up thrown in the streets. I remember walking with my associate to a store nearby and comparing the amount of plastic bottles of a soda company we were assessing vs. the amount of bottles from the competition along our way. Believe it or not, numbers actually coincided with the actual market share in the city. My associate joked “that’s a metric!” Was this “trash-counting” an indicator of consumer’s preference?

Of course it is not actually a metric, since not everyone and not every time people throw trash on the streets. It is nothing you as a company would want to measure and control, and even can’t. It would be pointless. But it was an amusing fun fact that does have a strange relationship on how much (and how) your product is being consumed when compared to others. If you see your product on a bag along with other trash, what other brands are present? In other words, what are the habits of your costumer and other affinity brands? This could even help you in developing alliances or marketing strategies.

Whenever I walked, I kept observing and sometimes counting the brands being thrown away. I have to confess I started to be glad to see a lot of my client’s plastic bottles in the streets since we were on a project in order to increase sales. Then I realized how wrong I was about feeling happy. I should have been feeling ashamed! The company should be responsible for the trash, and in some way, even educating their consumers (although it could seem an impossible task). The "Trash Metric" should not be a consumer's or sales indicator when increased, but a social responsability indicator when decreased. I did show the company's owner some plastic recycling options for their processes and I designed some POP that used our own plastic bottles, but they were not implemented during our services, although the owner did show interest on ecological matters that I hope he has accomplished.

Next time you walk on the streets, look at the trash and think how you, government and the company could resolve the issue. Maybe it is not a bad idea to e-mail the company saying “your non-biodegradable packages are contaminating my landscape.” I’m happy to see that Mexican companies such as Bimbo (bread and cupcakes) are using eco-friendly packaging and others such as Coca Cola with its water bottle Ciel (and with Ana Claudia Talanc√≥n in their campaign, YES!) are also making advertisement campaigns on how to properly dispose trash with new bottles designed for it.

We should innovate in greener products and technology and create effective campaigns so people adopt more conscious behaviors. Trash the trashers.

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