Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 30 July 2012

All aboard the eco-waggon

The foyer of my local shopping centre has long housed an assortment of devices designed to extract the hard-earned (or otherwise) cash of weak-willed parents.

Strategically positioned to catch the eye and elicit that all-important pester-power are a mechanical Thomas the Tank Engine and a variety of brightly-coloured machines dispensing additive-laden confectionery and small plastic toys. Now they have been joined, in slightly incongruous fashion, by a dustbin lorry.

Parents put coins into the slot to allow the child to 'drive' the thing - or at least sit in the driving seat while it moves about - and to stand in the back pushing buttons in front of a screen to 'sort' the virtual rubbish into categories for recycling.

Now I'm all for recycling - as long as it's effectively done - but surely there's something excessively pedestrian about trying to make the whole idea 'fun' in this way. I can't imagine it evolving without some kind of public sector input; worthy as it may be, it is hardly likely to fire the juvenile imagination.

I admit I'm hardly the target audience - even when I had young children, they knew better than to ask me to spend money on this kind of thing - but it seems to me that any commercial enterprise operating with absolute creative freedom is unlikely to have hit on this particular scenario to attract the punters.

So what's the story? Is this oddity the product of an unholy alliance between public-sector eco-evangelists and the manufacturers (motto: "turn smiles into gold")? Is it a deliberate attempt to ensure the next generation have taken on board their social and environmental responsibility while turning a handsome profit?

Or am I wrong about today's toddlers; are they so accustomed to good-little-citizen propaganda that they have come to regard it as mainstream entertainment?


  1. No such things have yet showed up in my local supermarkets, still firmly the province of Thomas and Bob...

  2. Perhaps you live in a more evolved neck of the woods; there seems to be no shortage here of people (I use the term loosely) ready to fork out ridiculous amounts of money for trashy ephemera.

    Outside the shopping centre at weekends and in school holidays is a 12' inflatable slide for small children; it's always packed even though its operator charges a staggering £1.50 for 5 goes - and there is a free children's park a hundred yards away.

  3. Um, how about recycling the parents?