We’re undoubtedly living in a throwaway culture – and it’s time to throw it away. Influenced by consumerism and wanting the newest electronics and more clothes, we don’t even wait for things to break or become worn down before buying more. Back during the Great Depression, the strategy to help the economy get back on its feet was by making products not built to last, so people would buy, and spend, more. Unfortunately, it’s led to an unhealthy climate and plastic pollution across the world — all you have to do is look around to see the effect this is having on our planet. In the tech industry, chemicals used to produce products are making landfills toxic and risking the lives of workers.
Today, mass consumption has become a way of life for the majority of us. Although this could be partly due to technology advancing a lot quicker than it did, we’re placing trend over durable products. Sadly, between 1988 and 2016, plastic waste was exported from the UK to China, which following China’s ban on importing plastic waste, has caused countries like Indonesia and Thailand to suffer the effects of plastic pollution, damaging their health and environment.
So, as well as being fully transparent, brands needs a voice and authority on some of the biggest topical subjects, and throwaway culture is certainly one of them. Leading by example and introducing new strategies could be the key to help tackle the throwaway tendencies that we have relied upon as a society, encouraging complacent consumers to adopt changes. For example, buying sustainable products such as organic coffee and using recycled packaging are steps we can take to treat our planet and fellow workers with respect.
Here, we’ll take a look at what brands are doing to help combat the effects of our throwaway culture and discuss why such products have entered the mainstream.
Traidcraft – compostable packaging
Traidcraft have long been pioneers in fair trade and providing sustainable products, but their ethos is extending to packaging too. Around only 42.5% of overall household waste in the UK is recycled — a sobering statistic. Forget recyclable packaging — compostable packaging is the future! (Just kidding, don’t forget about recyclable packaging).
Your packaging will be converted by micro-organisms in the soil into decomposed organic matter that is good for the environment and can make nutrient rich compost. Food and environmental benefits – what’s better?
Traidcraft commented, “If you’re conscious about justice for the environment, investing in products which utilise plant-based, compostable packaging is a small lifestyle switch which can have massive impact on the planet.
“Simply enjoy your product, whether it be chocolate, snack bars or confectionary, then top up your compost heap with your compostable wrapper.”
Asda – refill stations
Supermarket giant Asda will be launching new sustainability stores in Middleton in Leeds, where shoppers can refill their own containers with food, such as cereal, coffee, tea, plastic-free flowers, and loose food produce.
This will be the UK’s first mainstream store to offer this service to customers, a fantastic step to fight plastic waste. Customers will be queried about how they found the experience, and how to roll it out across the country. This is extremely important as UK supermarkets produce 58 billion pieces of plastic waste each year.
Us – green habits
Us isn’t the name of a company, it’s us, me and you. What can we do to help mitigate the effects of a throwaway culture? For starters, we can buy less. The 5 Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.
Consider them in order. Be thoughtful when you’re thinking of buying something and use the power of the pound to say no to, and refuse, unethical and exploitative companies. Can your phone last another year or is it really on its last legs? Do you really need to buy that black plastic microwave meal, or could you cook something fresh with vegetables?
Reduce your overall consumption and query every significant purchase, particularly impulse buying. If possible, give yourself a day or two to resist and go home to think about if you really need it. This is particularly important for fast fashion – we know that we can’t refuse buying new clothes for the rest of our lives but cutting down is still helpful.
Swap disposable for reusable whenever you can. As everything we buy ends up in landfill at some point, try to limit your impact on the environment. Reusing items is what our ancestors did with less resources, so we can do it too. Reuse other people’s clothes and items by checking out online second-hand marketplaces like eBay and Depop.
Repurposing might be upcycling or DIY. Could you cut those worn out jeans into shorts, or use that cool tin for a chic make up brush holder? You can challenge your creative side here and have household items that are completely original and one of a kind.
If you’ve exhausted all other options, recycle.