Many labels have surfaced to describe Americans' attitudes and practices pertaining to waste and our environment. The term "throw away society" is one of those labels that refers to trends in consumerism that have resulted in an over tenfold increase in "product waste" between 1900 and 2000 (from 92 to 1,242 pounds per person per year).
This steady and continuing increase in wasteful behavior is encouraged and fueled by business and manufacturing models that focus on limited or planned obsolescence, vertical integration and other profiteering practices. Sometimes masked by development restraint or mistaken for progress, these practices continue to succeed. Diverting attention from the damage they cause by appealing to the individual desire to be successful and "live well". Outrageous profits can be realized by tempting consumers to replace useful items with "newer", "better" versions while they are still viable and functioning.
“Product waste” also includes the ever-increasing disposal of viable packaging materials, most of which are not readily decomposable, and which now comprise 32% of all municipal solid waste. Product packaging is currently the easiest and most widely recycled type of waste; although cost benefit arguments over income loss and social costs vs. benefits and savings continue to be fought.
Another 30+% of total solid waste is shipping packaging - that makes 2/3 of all solid waste attributable to packaging!
It is possible for us all to grow out of the "throw away" mindset and head into a bright, new future of dynamic, creative recycling, reuse and repurposing of these goods that will be our legacy if we choose to participate.