Time’s up for throwaway culture – Dawn Woodward National Sales manager Curaprox UKFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 28th September 2019
Overflowing landfills and polluted waterways remain stark evidence of the way in which we as a society see many things as disposable, replaceable or temporary. It is this attitude that has given rise to throwaway culture, which refers to the excessive production and over consumption of short-lived, single-use items. Throwaway culture has become such a global crisis that many leading figures have spoken out against the issue. It is not only contributing to the depletion of our planet’s precious, finite resources, but also threatens to permanently damage the environment – particularly as it is having a substantial impact on the way we deal with waste.
The UK prides itself on being a world leader in ethical and responsible waste disposal, but even our developed infrastructure is straining under the weight of the waste we produce annually – over 200 million tonnes of it, in fact.[i]Recycling rates have risen steadily over the past few years, but not quickly enough for Britain to meet the EU target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020.[ii],[iii]The UK had previously relied on shipping much of its waste overseas to be recycled in countries such as China and Malaysia, who now reject these imports as their own recycling plants have become overwhelmed.
All of our waste has to go somewhere, and some experts predict that this will lead to more waste being dumped in landfill or incinerated, thereby contributing to increased pollution and environmental destruction. Manufacturers are now being criticised for failing to play a greater role in reducing waste at the point of source in order to prevent single-use and non-recyclable materials becoming an issue in the first place. Instead, many firms produce and supply cheap goods that are disposable as opposed to durable, which encourages people to consume them quickly before throwing them away in favour of newer items.
Like many other industries, the clothing and textiles sector is currently fuelling this throwaway culture through so-called “fast fashion”, whereby items are being sold so cheap that they are regarded as single-use purchases. A survey of 2,000 respondents aged 18 to 35 found that 61% of buyers have no interest in well-made, long-lasting clothing, with many preferring cheap trend-based items that could be thrown away the following season.[iv]This is alarming considering the production of clothes makes the industry one of the world’s most significant polluters. The disposal of any unwanted clothing also causes additional harm to the environment, as a lot of it is thrown away rather than reused or recycled. It is estimated that £140 million worth of clothing ends up in landfill each year, but much of this may be incinerated in the near future in order to manage the sheer quantity of textile waste being produced.[v]
It seems the food industry is no better when it comes to throwaway culture. Plastic food packaging, in particular, has revolutionised the way we store and consume food, enabling people to foster a lunch-on-the-go habit that generates 10.7 billion items of packaging waste each year. Research on over 1,200 UK workers has revealed that an average lunch purchase includes four packaged items, with 76% of shoppers picking up a main item such as a boxed sandwich, 70% a packet of snacks, and 65% a napkin.[vi]This creates huge levels of waste that often cannot be recycled as it is produced from mixed materials or contaminated by food residue. Drink bottles are the most popular form of single-use, plastic packaging that can be recycled, but just over half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled. The rest are disposed of in landfill, burned or eventually find their way into our oceans, causing further damage to the environment.[vii]
Within the health and dental care industries, disposable single-use items offer several advantages over reusable products, including to help reduce the potential for spreading infection. However, this is also contributing to the global waste crisis, putting greater pressure on dental manufacturers to consider environmentally-friendly solutions for single-use goods. Many companies are already supplying oral healthcare products that can be reused or recycled. Curaprox, for instance, is combatting throwaway culture by offering patients CPS interdental brushes that are innovatively designed with a reusable handle and a replaceable brush head. This makes CPS interdental brushes last up to five times longer than traditional alternatives available on the market, thus helping patients reduce, reuse and recycle as much of their waste as possible.
With mounting concerns over worldwide waste management, the need to act has never been more pressing. We can no longer afford to use the countryside or the oceans as dumping grounds for our throwaway culture, or else we risk irreparably damaging the environment. This ultimately has the potential to detrimentally affect us as a society. Conscientious consumption of natural resources is key to leaving the planet in a better state than when we inherited it. As such, it is important that we all take steps to follow a more responsible, environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
[i]Whittaker, L. and Ashton, P. (2019) Digital Revolution: transforming waste management in the UK. Gov.uk. Link: https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2019/01/31/digital-revolution-transforming-waste-management-in-the-uk/. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[ii]Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs. (2019) UK Statistics on Waste. Link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/784263/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_March_2019_rev_FINAL.pdf. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[iii]Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs. (2019) Impact Assessment: Consistent municipal recycling collections in England. Link: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/consultation-on-consistency-in-household-and-busin/supporting_documents/recycleconsistencyconsultia.pdf. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[iv]Wolstenholme, H. (2018) More than 80 per cent of shoppers are buying clothes they never wear, study shows. Evening Standard. Link: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/more-than-80-per-cent-of-shoppers-are-buying-clothes-they-never-wear-study-shows-a4004996.html. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[v]WRAP. (2019) Clothing. Link: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/clothing-waste-prevention. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[vi]Hubbub. (2019) Hubbub’s new #FoodSavvy Lunch Club campaign encourages a rethink of ‘lunch on the go’ routines to reduce good and packaging waste. Link: https://www.hubbub.org.uk/FAQs/hubbubs-new-foodsavvy-lunch-club-campaign-encourages-a-rethink-of-lunch-on-the-go-routines-to-reduce-food-and-packaging-waste. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].
[vii]Recycle Now. (2019) What to do with plastic bottles. Link: https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/plastic-bottles-0. [Last accessed: 25.07.19].