Rubbish on the beach , rubbish on the streets , rubbish in our shops !
Every time I take my dog for a walk along our local coastline I see litter unfortunately . I try to pick up as much as I can , particularly plastic bags and bottles . Compared with some beaches I’ve seen on the TV ours on the North-East coast aren’t too bad , and I’ve seen 2 other people who do the same as me locally . Some is just dropped by walkers and picnickers, some blows in from inland , the rest is brought in by the sea from elsewhere .
As you’ll see from this weekends collection there are broken up bits of plastic bags , fishermen’s twine that were found on the beach amongst the seaweed . Numerous crisp bags were just lying around as were McDonald’s packaging . All of it would soon end up in the sea , gradually breaking up into smaller pieces , some of which will end up in birds and fish . A few days later after some windy weather I picked up 5 plastic shopping bags 3 that had been in the sea and 2 just blowing around , then filled one of them with bits of other bags that were caught up in seaweed and rocky pools . This is unusual as its usually plastic water and energy drink bottles that are lying around .
Many years ago I read a paperback book titled ” The Waste Makers ” written in 1960 by Vance Packard . An American he was an early environmentalist who was very concerned about built in obsolescence as well as unnecessary regular design changes to cars to encourage buyers to change their cars every year . Firstly he was complaining about ” planned obsolescence ” which he described as ” the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful , debt-ridden , permanently discontented individuals ” . Secondly he was complaining about American carmakers adding more and more unnecessary chrome decorative features each year to encourage people to buy the latest model . This years model had to look different to last years even if the basic car hadn’t changed ! There were other issues he had , and it’s worth getting a hold of a copy if you can as it certainly was just the start of the disposable society . The American car market gradually changed as Japanese and German manufacturers came in to compete with Ford , Chrysler , General Motors etc but now we’re seeing the same desire for novelty whether it’s furniture , clothing , white goods or decorative items .
The 1950s and 1960s vacuum cleaners were heavy and basic , but they were easy to repair , solidly made and with a little care lasted 40 or 50 years . The same was true of so many things that today we regularly throw away as they break or fail so quickly .
We’re regularly buying 1950s and 1960s furniture from the families of the original owners that was so well made and beautifully designed that with a little TLC from our in-house furniture restorer and/or our in-house upholsterer it’s soon ready to face the next generation or two of home owners . Gradually from the 1950s into the 1960s and 70s manufacturing changes can be seen that made things easier and cheaper to produce , but meant that fewer pieces are strong enough to survive daily use from generation to generation .
Initially production changes meant that more interesting pieces could be made in the 1950s and 1960s , pieces like Arne Jacobsen chairs due to laminating , new glues and lightweight springs etc , but the slope gets slippy as the techniques that brought us new shapes and lighter lines led to saving money to make things cheaper and cheaper . The balance in the 1950s and early 1960s was definitely still in place but by the late 1960s more manufacturers were looking to see how cheaply they could make things rather than how well . In the 1970s British firms like Schreiber and MFI along with large German companies and the fast expanding IKEA gradually took their toll and the furniture industry moved from being one which sold pieces that were aimed at buyers who expected pieces to last a lifetime to those that expected to change their furniture every 20 or 30 years . In the 1950s and 60s it was possible for a customer to buy pieces that lasted even if they were on a low wage , but in the 1970s this became a rare thing and you had to be rich or buy second-hand or antique to get that quality . As we moved into the 1980s the number of trained craftsmen dwindled and were less and less likely to be replaced in high-wage economies . Today you can still buy properly made pieces produced in the UK and Scandinavia but there is a wide chasm between what’s affordable for the vast majority of the population and what is produced only for the extremely wealthy .
G Plan and McIntosh furniture in the 1950s , 60s and 70s was aimed at the middle market , today that quality is unobtainable for lower and middle earners . The G Plan sideboard that in 1969 cost less than £60 which is less than £1000 in todays terms will still sell second-hand for around half that in top vintage condition in the UK , but to produce and sell in the UK today to the same standard would cost probably more like £2000-£2500 , but then in the US or Far East buyers are paying those sort of amounts for a G Plan sideboard from 1969 and sometimes more if you look on First Dibs !