Ever since planned obsolescence was introduced by manufacturers in the postwar period as a way of ensuring steady sales, we have increasingly been living in a throw away society. The lifespans of many consumer goods are incredibly short, and as the pace of technological change accelerates, they are getting even shorter. It is not unusual for a laptop to break down after three or four years, or for new software to be introduced that is not compatible with existing hardware. Even when products continue to work, new models with additional functions appear on a regular basis, encouraging people to upgrade before they really need to. Once the idea of calling someone on a mobile phone was revolutionary in itself. Now we expect our mobiles to take pictures and connect to the Internet.
Rapidly succeeding generations of mobiles and computers have contributed to an explosion of electronic scrap. It is estimated that 4 million PCs are discarded in China every year. In the UK, 2 million working Pentium PCs end up in landfill during the same period.
Reducing waste is a three-pronged attack. The first strategy is to buy better quality and use less, which
represents a direct reduction in consumption. The second is to reuse products- repairing and mending is a way of reusing- and the third is to recycle so that the minimum ends up being disposed to landfill or incinerated.
Buy only what you need or real want. Some brave souls have taken up the challenge of buyin nothing superfluous to basic requirements for a period of months and discovered that man of their previous purchases had been made unthinkingly. Impulse buys rarely satisfy true needs and are often the items that are most likely to be discarded at a later date or hang around indefinitely occupying valuable space .
Buy better things. When you buy less, you will be able to afford products of higher quality, which will last longer and perform better. Avoid buying products made of plastic or other materials that cannot easily be recycled or that are not biodegradable. Choose glass bottles over plastic containers, for example.
-Packaging is a huge source of waste. Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a local market or grocer; buy staple items in bulk; use reusable shopping bags and baskets.
-Avoid disposable products such as plastic razors, paper napkins and tissues, paper plates, cups and
– Join a library to borrow books or read periodicals, Read newspaper online. Rent DVDs or videos
from a store
-Join a toy library to rotate your children’s toys, rather than buying new every time.
-Hire tools rather than buying them, or borrow from your neighbours. Many DIY jobs are tackled rarely and there is no need to keep a vast array of power tools on hand for the odd occasion when you feel moved to put up a shelf.
-Stop junk mail at source by removing your name from direct mailing lists or joining a mail preference service.
– Don’t buy bottled water unless absolutely necessary. Reuse old plastic bottles or use a water flask if you need to take water out with you. Ask for tap water in restaurants.
-Send e-cards instead of paper ones
-Don’t print your emails unless absolutely necessary. Try to print on both sides of the paper if possible. Special software is available that reduces toner and paper consumption
-Don’t buy single-use cameras. Make a packed lunch to take to work and save money as well as packaging.
– Learn the art of cooking leftovers
to reduce food waste. Soups, stews
and casseroles are good ways of
making use of spare ingredients.
One pernicious side-effecet of our throwaway society is that we are all too ready to discard things that could easily be repaired. Basic mending skills are not difficult to acquire.
If you are all fingers and thumbs, it only takes a little effort to find a repair service. Many dry-cleaners, for example, will do simple alterations to clothing .
However, repair is sometimes not an option. Manufacturers often collude in this by building in obsolescence or discontinuing parts that might keep an appliance functioning for longer if they were available.
Products made of synthetic materials, including plastics are also more difficult to repair. If your wooden floor looks battered, you can always resand and reseal it. A worn vinyl floor, on the other hand, is heading for landfill sooner rather than later. Buy goods that are made of natural materials as far as possible and you stand a better chance of prolonging their life with proper maintenance.
-Reuse old containers for home storage needs. Jam jars, yogurt pots with lids and ice-cream cartons can be used to organize your home workshop or food cupboards. Use resealable and reusable containers to store leftovers rather than cover them with foil or plastic wrap.
-Reuse envelopes and padded bags. Repair and mend furniture and furnishings. Have chairs and sofas y
reupholstered rather than buying replacements. Refinish scratched or stained wooden furniture.
– Buy reconditioned electrical appliances from approved outlets.
– Buy vintage. Scour flea markets, secondhand shops, car boot sales and other outlets for ‘pre-loved
goods. Skips, auction houses and salvage yards are good sources for secondhand building materials,
such as bricks, paving stones and timber, as well as building elements, such as fireplaces,
windows, doors, and fittings and fixtures.
-Old knitted garments can be unravelled for a source of yarn you can reuse.
– Practise good housekeeping on your computer. Upgrade to new software when it becomes available and install extra memory rather than buy a new model.
– Downcycle old sheets and towels as cleaning rags rather than buy disposable cloths or paper towel.
Many local areas provide scrap materials for children’s art projects.