Think of all the energy, money, materials, resources, packaging, and effort it takes to make these ‘super long’ matches. At over 20 cm long (7.87 inches), these matches are handy and useful, but extremely wasteful. How hard would it be if the Redheads company were to place another red dollop of phosphorous at the other end of the stick, like the one I have mocked-up below? This would enable the matches to be used twice. Think of the savings! Here we come to an argument about scruples and ethics. If an extra dip of phosophorous (these are not diamonds) would cost all of 5 cents in total for all 40 matches, would such an innovation not deprive Swedish Match Australia Pty Ltd of revenue? Would sales halve? Or would more people find these matches economical and of great value? Would this be the right thing to do? Incidentally, it fascinates me when people fuss-about, trying to conserve energy and trees, when they do not realise that money itself, damages the environment. You see, a consumer could purchase 40 matches and discard them, or they can enjoy 80 uses instead of 40. This can save them $8.00, or whatever the cost of the box is. And this $8.00 takes a H-U-G-E amount of energy to generate. They have to work super hard to earn this disposable income (try costing out your environmental footprint while earning a dollar, and don’t forget the energy for your showers, travel, detergent, lunches etc). Why don’t companies realise that the best way to reduce the toll on the environment, is to reduce the cost of materials. An $8.00 saving per customer might translate into astronomical environmental savings, the likes of which environmentalists and do-gooders might never have imagined. This reminds me of the time when corporations started printing their annual reports using recycled paper. They boasted about it. Back then, such paper was approximately 40% more expensive. Imagine how many more products they had to have sold to make up for that huge waste of money, as if wasting money is not the same as wasting resources.
All this came to mind because the Redheads boxes boast a logo that reads ‘Environmentally friendly’ (in such a small font, that only 2% of the population has the eyesight to work out the text at that miniscule point-size). You can see the boastful logo as the fifth yellow symbol on the box, sporting the red tick. What could that mean? Why and how can matches be environmentally friendly? After studying the manufacturing process, I was amazed to learn that in a small country like Australia, despite all the automatic ignition gadgetry and gas lighters, Australians still use 2.4 billion matches each year. Think of the trees. Think of the many chemical processes that matches go through, to enhance their safety. Matches these days to not glow red when they are extinguished. This is due to a special chemical treatment. They burn evenly, due to another treatment. These Redheads were once an Australian innovation. They are now Swedish, after a buy-out. The timber comes from Scandinavia and the Baltic region. These super-long matches are made in Hungary (one of ten countries where manufacturing is based) and shipped to Australia. If we can somehow calculate the intricate processes, we would find it fascinating and mind-boggling. Not to mention the US$6.5 billion the company reports in relation to the cost-of-goods-sold, including tobacco products (being one of the world’s largest makers of cigars). The Swedish company employs over 12,400 people.
So I put it to you; if the company is so keen about the environment, so much so that the Australian division is a signatory to the Australian Government’s National Packaging Covenant (NPC), and if it cares to reduce wastage, packaging, wrapping, freight, and land-fill, not to mention the logging, fuel, and power, why should it not consider the double-dipping proposal above? Can you imagine how this simple innovation can reduce wastage by thousands of percent. That’s enough to earn the company many trophies at any environment convention.
It just comes down to ethics and scruples. No doubt the obfuscators will carry-on about safety. Obfuscators are amusing. I just don’t know how they can sleep at night.