A website dedicated to food inevitably ends up writing a lot about waste. The two go hand-in-hand, and it often feels like a Sisyphean task to try to hold manufacturers accountable for their detritus. Over at The Outline, writer Samer Kalaf is the latest to join in that collective exasperation, with an article titled “I’m Upset: Do not give me ketchup packets.”
“While the underlying sentiment—that every human on Earth deserves easy and affordable access to ketchup—is appreciated,” Kalaf writes, “I can’t think of a scenario in which I ordered food, wanted ketchup, and couldn’t easily squeeze it from a regular bottle.” Amen. The eloquent rant lists all kinds of things wrong with single-serve ketchup packets: their wastefulness, their messiness, their uselessness (assuming you want more than one swipe of ketchup for your fries), and most of all, their unfathomable ubiquity. Heinz claims to produce 11 billion packets every year, which makes it pretty astounding that it hasn’t drawn a backlash at least on par with the one that plastic straws stirred in the collective social conscience.
The single-serve disposable condiment packet is emblematic of capitalism in both its excess and its laughably poor design. Can’t we be better than this? Can’t we just admit to ourselves that there’s never going to come a time where we suddenly have use for the seven packets of ketchup and mustard piled limply in the butter compartment of the fridge? Or is there a crucial use for these packets I’m not thinking of? Let us know of any hidden utility they might have—although, even then, we could stop producing them tomorrow and still have plenty left for decades to come.