One the most important causes around the issue of waste is our personal consumption patterns and our personal bias against reuse.
As our society faces economic shifts we have become ignorant of the scarcity of resources that our planet holds. With economic upturns we have been mystified by the luxuries of abundance and freedom to consume. We have been programmed to believe as consumers that we have an abundance of everything and easily disregard products that are old and previously owned.
As McDonough and Braungart mention, “Today most so-called durables are tossed.” Where once products were made to last and be fixed when broken, the products of today are now being designed for short term use.
This could be due to marketing schemes and advertising which has programed consumers that the “virgin” products we buy are easily replaceable and that there is a better, shiny new one waiting for you at a local retailer nearby. So why save when you can have something new or even why care since today our products are only designed to last a short cycle? As consumers, we have been so entranced by the ideal of “virgin” products that we have lost our ability to salvage, save and reuse. Our personal consumption patterns and personal bias against reuse has created rifts in the system of responsible waste.
I can firmly say that we have become a throwaway culture and that our perception of finite resources is completely out of touch with reality. Of course with all this bleak thought, it should be also mentioned that this behavior is not a fixed system in our human psyche. It was taught and learned through years of endless marketing schemes and family habits and can be remediated with the same actions. When we change the ideals of consumption we change the process that has caused so much harm to the fragile ecosystem and in turn create a more environmentally savvy system.
McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. 2009. Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. London: Vintage. – Chapters: 01. A question of Design (pg.17-44) and 04. Waste equals Food) pg. 92-117)