Published: Feb. 9, 2021 By

The average American throws away 4.6 pounds of trash every day. This equates to over 1,600 pounds of waste per person each year. This is nearly twice the amount of the global average of waste generated per person. The United States is a “throw-away society.” This is not by coincidence.

Planned Obsolescence

  • Planned obsolescence is the production of products that will fail or become less desirable over time, encouraging the consumer to throw their old product away and buy something new. 

  • Began in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, as mass production was becoming popular

  • Encourages consumers to buy more and saves companies from having to invest more money into producing higher quality products

  • This is not a sustainable practice and has contributed to the United States being a throw-away society

  • Examples of planned obsolescence include technology or car companies coming out with a new product each year with only slight changes, encouraging consumers to repurchase every year

The Cost of Convenience

  • The desire for convenience in consumption is another waste and pollution contributor. A large part of this problem stems from overly packaged 

  • Over 100 billion plastic bottles are sold in just the United States every year

  • It is estimated that over 14.5 million tons of single-use plastic packaging are created each year

  • Plastic is also a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from plastic reach nearly two billion metric tons every single year

There Is A Better Way (Small Changes that add up Big)

  1. Make the decision to not just buy based on simplicity. Avoid purchasing single-use water bottles, single-use plastic baggies, grocery items with excessive packaging, and other plastic products that will not get plenty of use. 

  2. Buy products that will last. Research before purchasing a new product, such as appliances, technology, or clothing, to see if the product is durable or will begin to break after just months of use. Oftentimes, the cheapest option is not always the best option and repeated buying will cost more money in the long run.

  3. Get more life out of the items you already have. Before throwing an item away and purchasing something new, find out if what you already have can be fixed or repurposed. Many clothing companies, such as Dr. Martens, Patagonia, and REI will repair their products for free. Find more companies that offer life-time warranties and will repair clothing here

    The switch to living sustainably may seem intimidating. However, starting out with small steps, such as buying a reusable water bottle, repeating outfits, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, and working on recycling habits will make the transition to a zero-waste lifestyle seem easier. Ultimately, being mindful of what you are consuming and why you are consuming it will help to change the “throw-away” culture that American companies have created.