Modern Kitchen – Utopia redux or hopeless cause
In the decades following World War II, the modern western kitchen started to develop through the combination of improved infrastructure in the form of facilities such as running water and electricity coming directly into the home along with the post-war manufacturing boom that was able to supply homes with a range of new kitchen appliances. In the supply of food to consumers, industrial agricultural practices led to an increase in the range and availability of produce and food processing technology increased the shelf life of many packaged food products. This was the modern Kitchen Utopia.
However, by 1960 when Vance Packard published ‘The Wastemakers’, kitchen appliance manufacturers had already identified the kitchen as a room where they could promote increasing consumption of kitchen appliances through planned obsolescence.
Since that time changes to lifestyles, working habits, technology, food health standards, labelling and food availability along with increased knowledge of different cultural food options have inevitably changed what and how people purchase, prepare and consume food. The food we consume is a combination of the organic food produce that we either purchase or grow ourselves, the processes by which we prepare and cook that food for consumption and finally the activity of consumption. All of this occurs in our kitchen and as a consequence produces waste. The kitchen was Utopia no more.
But kitchens produce more than just food as waste. Other waste by-products include the transient packaging materials and the more durable gadgets and infrastructure. In recent years the problem of rapidly growing landfills, the environmental impacts of poorly managed landfills and the recognition that much of what was being thrown away still had some value has seen the emergence of waste resource recovery. This positive reappraisal of waste materials, with their value increasing is a direct result of greater recognition of waste as a resource that can be put to better use through recycling and reuse.
Consequently, where once we considered the consumption – waste process to have a relatively linear path, that process can now result in a number of pathways where items or the materials in those items can be diverted back through the consumption system several times before they complete their journey. Perhaps we are finally seeing a Kitchen Utopia Redux.