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A Throwaway Society

Once upon a time, we lived in a world where things were built to last, items were carefully looked after and when things broke they generally got fixed…


In the years before the industrial age, before the majority of our goods were produced on mass in factories, it wasn’t an economically viable option to discard and replace. Back then, repairing, recycling and reusing was widely practiced because it made good sense.

From the early 20th century though the introduction and development of new industrial processes and the oncoming flood of cheaper materials changed everything.


‘Things’ lost their value, they were generally cheaper and therefore convenient to replace and so a new culture of disposable living and consumerism was born. We gradually became what is often referred to as a ‘throwaway society’.

Back in the 1950’s, the idea that furniture, goods and everyday items could be used and discarded was celebrated and embraced by many starting at first in the USA before gradually spreading from there. It seemed liberating to be able to eat your dinner on disposable plates, then throw them away without having to waste time washing up and what was the point wasting time fixing a broken desk when it was so much easier and cheaper to throw it away and replace it with a brand new one?


For any business involved in the manufacture and sale of these low cost, ‘disposable’ goods, this model paints a wonderful picture. Consumers return time and time again to purchase new items, generating a steady stream of income for those who are most successful.


But, all of this waste had to go somewhere. Fast forward a few decades and we have numerous environmental issues as a result of all of the excess waste being produced. The focus returns to recycling once again, only nowadays we are recycling for a variety of different environmental and economic reasons.


Recycling may be an age old concept, but in 2014 we have arrived at a point of time where recycling has become a huge industry, generating somewhere in the region of 100,000 jobs and £12 billion in revenue in the UK alone.

In one shape or another, recycling is now the primary source of income for numerous companies, involved in the many different aspects of recycling.


Thankfully we have adapted our approach to waste and changed many of our previous habits in both commercial and residential premises over recent years. This trend should continue to grow as the economics of recycling becomes more and more beneficial and the general acceptance of the environmental importance increases.


Disposable items and cheap goods are the ideal choice for those seeking a low cost, convenient option, but there is no getting away from the truth; in terms of pleasure you cannot beat the way a quality item feels in your hands or beat the experience of using a quality piece of machinery, compared to an inferior alternative.

There will always be a demand for a cheaper alternative to all of the high end products and equipment on the market, so perhaps the goal we should be striving for, a compromise if you like, is to ensure that all of these low cost products are manufactured using recycled materials and only ever constructed using materials that can be successfully recycled after use.

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