The Humble Pan

Let’s start first by thinking about broken pans. Pans break or are thrown away for a variety of reasons. The handle might have come off, the base might have come apart, it might have been dropped and dented, the inside surface might be badly damaged, the lid might have broken, it might have been burnt beyond the ability of cleaning, or maybe there was nothing really wrong with it apart from it looking a little old and tired or you just wanted a change or it doesn’t work too well on your new hob or even you found a pan set at a massive discount and don’t have space any more for the old one?

If the pan still works when you want to get rid of it then it makes sense to offer it a second life to someone else. If the pan is broken then it makes sense to get it recycled (take it to your local recycling centre).

An increasing number of pans are coated in a non-stick surface. This can get damaged over time. Depending on the composition of this surface there can be good reasons for no longer using the pan.

Imagine that we now need to replace the pan and, for the sake of this case study, we want to buy a new one. When we enter the shop or look online, the first thing we are bombarded by are the prices. £11, £12, £15, £28, £45. They all look new and appealing. But we are not fooled. We ask about or search for which ones will last. But one thing might strike you. If you last purchased a pan many years ago, the lowest prices might seem somewhat familiar. In real terms the price of pans at the bottom end appears to have been falling. This has coincided with an increase in imported pans from low cost economies far away.

If we want to buy cheap we now have a choice: do we buy cheap today or do we try and buy cheap over the long term? They can lead to very different selections. Buying cheap today is the easy choice: we compare on price and buy and leave with our bargain. Buying cheap over the long term requires that we do some research: what did previous customers say, which features on the pan do we think will last and what do we think will break first. This is where our broken pan thought experiment at the top now starts to help: those broken pans and damaged surfaces spring to mind: what is the handle like, how is the pan made, how resilient is the surface, how thin is the pan?

If the £45 pan will last five times as long as the cheapest then it could turn out to be the most economic choice and the lowest consumption choice.

And finally there’s an important psychological aspect: if we buy what we perceive to be an expensive product, we are more likely to look after it and that will also contribute towards making it last even longer.