What is a throwaway society? We have certainly all heard the term before. It mainly comes up when we talk about waste in the environment, short-lived disposable items or the disposal of things that are actually still functional. But what exactly does it actually mean?
In this article, I would like to show you what characterizes a throwaway society, what the exact causes and consequences are and what each of us can do about it. I'll say one thing up front: when a society lives in abundance, this unfortunately has consequences for people, nature and wildlife. Let's go!
You can find a brief overview here in advance:
Definition: What is a throwaway society?
A throwaway society (also known as an affluent society) is understood to be a Affluent society with a throwaway mentality - a society in which material things that could still be used or reused are only used briefly out of abundance and convenience, quickly disposed of and often bought again. Ultimately, it is a question of (over)quickly disposing of material things.
The opposite of the throwaway society is the Circular economy. The aim is to use natural raw materials for as long as possible in order to protect the environment.
Characteristics: How can you recognize a throwaway society?
Are we living in a throwaway society? And if so, how can we recognize it? I find it difficult to recognize a society in which Disposable products such as plastic bags, coffee-to-go cups and cotton pads are surprisingly popular, not to be called a throwaway society.
While the Life hacks from our grandparents Whereas in the past it was important to use an item for as long as possible because it was rare or very expensive, nowadays most people simply buy a new one when it breaks. Precisely because it Cheap and always available is. In the past, it was repaired and not thrown in the bin - because at that time people (in Germany) lived in a repair society and not in abundance.
At Abundance is when things that need to be repaired or are no longer needed are simply thrown away because it is cheaper and less expensive. This attitude of people - especially in western industrialized countries - is a extremely wasteful handling with the (limited) Earth's natural resources.
Statistics: What facts and figures underpin the throwaway society?
There is not only "repair society" or "throwaway society" - there is also a long process in between. Here I would like to present you with some valuable statistics that illustrate the extent of our (resource) wasteful lifestyle:
- Household waste generation on the rise: In 2000, the volume of typical household municipal waste was 37.6 million tons. A waste volume of 46.1 million tons was calculated for 2020 - a significant increase. From 458 kilograms per inhabitant in 2000 to 554 kilograms per inhabitant in 2020.₁
- Packaging waste: Packaging waste is the main source of waste in German households. At 68 percent, packaging for food, drinks and pet food accounts for the largest share - but at the same time only ties up 12 percent of consumer spending.₂
- Food waste: Around 55 kilograms of food are thrown away per capita in Germany every year - almost half of which is still edible and usable in principle.₃ Almost a third of current food consumption is therefore thrown away - and thus produced for nothing.₄ More facts on this can be found at Food waste statistics.
Notice: These are just a few of the many figures that make the extent of our throwaway mentality more tangible. Do you know any other statistics that I should include here? Then I look forward to your comment.
Causes: Why are we a throwaway society?
The transition to a society of abundance does not happen overnight. It is a constantly evolving process - whether in a positive or negative direction. Here I would like to briefly explain the reasons why throwaway societies are developing.
Increasing convenience and throwaway mentality
Man Disposes of things that are actually still functional or damagedinstead of repairing or selling them. Simply because it is less costly. Often the disposal even takes place in nature.
Production of cheap products
For many companies, manufactured goods only pay off if they are produced in large quantities and as cheaply as possible. Cheaper production generates a Lower durability and quality of goods, which is why food or clothing, for example, is thrown away more quickly.
Of course, this mindset has an extreme impact on end consumers: the cheaper and shorter-lived consumer goods are, the more likely people are to be ready to throw away. You literally don't throw so much money out of the window - and you can always buy a new product if necessary.
Rapid, technological progress
Old products that do not offer the performance of newer versions are of no interest to many people. This is especially true for technical devices, such as Smartphones or computers.
Whether drinking straws, cups or plastic bags - such disposable products are used for a few minutes and then thrown in the bin or into the environment. Very convenient, but also very expensive and harmful to the environment in the long term.
Fast trend changes
We humans strive for variety. New trends, designs and developments satisfy this desire with countless products that are as affordable as possible. For this reason, the Fast Fashion Industry with short-lived cheap goods and new trends every week unfortunately so successful.
Damage done often not (directly) visible
Unfortunately, a year's worth of garbage does not pile up right on our doorstep, as it is regularly collected by the local waste disposal companies.
Otherwise, the problem would probably be more tangible. And if we humans had to take our waste away ourselves or pay an extremely high price for it, we would probably live more resource friendly But since our garbage is collected by the waste collection service, it is gone and forgotten. Out of sight out of mind.
Incidentally, this also applies to the plastic waste that many people carelessly leave behind on the beach in their vacation paradise (it's called Littering), which then for example eaten by marine animals will die from it.
Easier availability of goods
Nowadays, consumer goods are not only cheap to produce and inexpensive to buy - they can also be conveniently ordered online directly to your doorstep become. This simplified consumption, which may be beneficial for the economy but is extremely harmful to the environment, is also a cause of the throwaway society.
Nowadays, technical devices such as smartphones, computers and household appliances in particular are built in such a way that it is difficult or extremely costly for users to repair them. Ultimately, the Repair then more expensive than buying newThis makes people more inclined to throw an item away, which ultimately leads to new waste being created more quickly.
Tip: There are even manufacturers:inside who build their goods so that they break relatively quickly. At planned obsolescence you can find out everything you need to know about it.
Another cause of the wasteful consumer society is the joy of consumption. From a psychological point of view, buying new things is a kind of reward that fills us with short-term happiness. However, many consumer decisions are made out of a spontaneous emotion, which is why the feeling of happiness quickly fades again - What remains is a product that may be thrown away. This phenomenon can be observed particularly well with fashion goods.
Tip: Does consumption make you happy or unhappy? In the linked post, I took a closer look at the psychology behind our consumption decisions.
Consequences: What problems does a throwaway society cause?
Of course, living in a wasteful society that lives in abundance has consequences - especially for people, animals and the environment.
Here I would like to briefly explain some of the main consequences:
- Pollution: The throwaway society shows its ugly side above all in the form of the Waste in the environment. Plastic, for example, is not biodegradable and basically remains in nature forever.
- Animals perish: According to NABU, the remnants of our throwaway society alone cost the lives of up to 135,000 marine mammals and around one million seabirds every year.₅
- Increased convenience: The increasing consumption of disposable products and the quick and easy purchase at the click of a button is anchoring an increased tendency towards convenience in our society - and exacerbating the throwaway mentality immensely.
- Climate change: A throwaway society is characterized by the mass production of consumer goods. Regardless of how necessary the individual goods actually are, CO2 is emitted during their production - a greenhouse gas that the global warming is being driven forward. If the products are (quickly) disposed of, the CO2 emissions have even been emitted without any real, justified benefit or purpose.
- World hunger: Every year, around 1.3 billion tons of food actually end up in the world's garbage cans, even though there are 735 million starving people on the planet at the same time.₆ The unequal distribution in combination with the resource-intensive Factory farming are the main reasons why today still People starve must.
Tip: Did you know that Efficiency in the land of milk and honey doesn't play a role? I explain why this is the case in the linked article.
Solutions: What to do about the throwaway society?
Now you know the massive problem of the "throwaway society." But how can it be solved? What can we do about the consumer craze?
Here I would like to introduce you to some tips that you can use to Change from a society of abundance with a throwaway mentality to a "repair society" support on a daily basis.
Internalize the benefits of sustainability, minimalism, frugalism, and mindfulness
Live more mindfully and in the future only buy new things that you really need. If you implement this plan, you will quickly realize that you have more money in your wallet and more time for your friends - and ultimately produce significantly less waste.
You don't have to give up everything you enjoy! Ultimately, you simply minimize your consumption to the things that actually enrich you in the long term.
You can find helpful information on this in the following, further blog posts:
Live as waste-avoiding and plastic-free as possible
Of course, you can also actively shape the way out of the throwaway society by living as waste-avoidantly as possible. The Zero Waste Lifestyle and the plastic-free lifestyle offer you a cornucopia of possibilities.
Avoid buying new. Repair, buy second-hand, borrow items or give them a second chance in a different function by upcycling. Replace disposable with reusable and say "no"when someone (at a trade fair, for example) wants to give you promotional items that you don't actually need. There are so many ways and means to contribute to solving the "throwaway society" problem.
Tip: At Zero waste for beginners for more useful tips!
Counteract the consequences
Really cool is also the new trend sport Ploggingwhere you jog and pick up litter at the same time. Either way, you do the world a more beautiful place, inspire other people at the same time to imitate you - and draw attention to the waste problem in our society.
Can you think of any other tips in the fight against the affluent society? Then I look forward to your comment.
Disposable society: Become part of the solution!
An affluent society with a throwaway mentality is the result of increased convenience. Increasing quantities of cheap and disposable products, the constant availability of material goods and the joy of consumption do the rest. The question is not whether we live in a throwaway society - but rather how we can get out of it.
Everyone can do their bit - by being more conscious of what they really need. You are guaranteed to be surprised how good this change in your mindset will do you.
"Be the change you wish to see in this world."Mahatma Gandhi (more at Zero Waste Quotes)
I hope that I was able to provide you with helpful information about our throwaway society in this article. Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions on this topic? Then I look forward to your comments!
PS: Unfortunately, a new purchase cannot always be avoided. Find out now in the next article how you can avoid such cases as far as possible. store sustainably online can. Good luck!
₁ Federal Environment Agency: Waste generation (as at: 13.10.2022), available at https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/daten/ressourcen-abfall/abfallaufkommen#siedlungsabfalle-haushaltstypische-siedlungsabfalle. [11.10.2023].
₂ Press and Information Office of the Federal Government: Schluss mit der Wegwerfgesellschaft (as of 22.11.2016), available at https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/aktuelles/schluss-mit-der-wegwerfgesellschaft-379762. [11.10.2023].
₃ René Boksch: Food waste in Germany (as at: 21.08.2020), available at https://de.statista.com/infografik/16586/lebensmittelverschwendung. [11.10.2023].
₄ WWF Germany: Das große Wegschmeißen (as at: 13.09.2017), available at https://www.wwf.de/themen-projekte/landwirtschaft/ernaehrung-konsum/lebensmittelverschwendung/das-grosse-wegschmeissen. [11.10.2023].
₅ NABU Deutschland e.V.: Plastic waste and its consequences, available at https://www.nabu.de/natur-und-landschaft/meere/muellkippe-meer/muellkippemeer.html. [11.10.2023].
₆ Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V.: Hunger: prevalence, causes & consequences, available at https://t1p.de/ijuj. [11.10.2023].