The modern-day kitchen is a very different place to what it once was. 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.
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 food waste.
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 we have started to recognise that it is no longer good enough to throw what we no longer want into a hole called ‘landfill’ – in short much of what was being thrown away still had some value has seen the emergence of recycling and resource recovery.
The problem is that we no longer expect things to last – when my parents married they would buy whitegoods such as fridges and washing machines with an expectation that they would last many years if not decades. When they made other purchases for the kitchen it was always with a view that these things would last and could be fixed?
By the 1970s we started to see some specialisation of kitchen gadgetry – remember the vertical grill and the toaster oven. Who recalls the fashion for fondue? From there we saw a variety of things ranging from hotdog makers, waffle makers, juicers and the list goes on. Perhaps marketers have captured our ability to make sustainable decisions and taught us to purchase useless gadgets.