In the last five years, I have got through two laptops, five phones, two iPods, and – this is no exaggeration – nine phone chargers. This is because today we live in a throwaway culture.
If something we own is broken, we tend to throw it out and buy a new replacement, instead of trying to fix it.
In our household, each of our laptops have had to be repaired so many times I’ve lost count, because who can actually afford a brand new laptop every time something goes wrong? This, however, is always my parents’ decision. If it was down to me, I would save up, get rid of what was broken, and buy a new one, because I’ve grown up in this throwaway culture and, while knowing it’s wrong, I still think it’s easier to just buy a replacement. My parents and their own parents grew up when “make do and mend” is what people said, and what people did, but that isn’t always the case anymore.
A couple of years ago I watched a documentary about a guy who put a tracking device on his broken television before it was taken away to be ‘disposed of’, which, now I think about it, is a really vague term. A few days later, it ended up in India, and the man decided to follow it. When he got there, he discovered mountains of broken electrical items, with broken glass, sharp pieces of plastic, and dangerous wires covering the ground. Meanwhile, small children were walking amongst all of this with bare feet, scavenging for parts they could sell in order to buy food. This shocked me, which I suppose is why I still remember it so clearly. A few months later, I had to go the local tip with my parents to get rid of our washing machine which had broken beyond repair. I noticed that most of the skips were for recycling... except the one for electrical items, which was a shipping container. Somewhere in India, our old washing machine might be broken into pieces, ruining the landscape and potentially injuring someone just by being there.
These days, products just aren’t made to be easy to repair. Companies want more money, and what better way to get lots of money than to almost force people into buying the product again instead of letting them repair one part of it somewhere else? Take my iPod, for example. If something goes wrong inside, I wouldn’t be able to fix it because the back doesn’t come off. If the screen on my camera shattered, I would have to buy a whole new camera, because you can’t buy a new screen on its own. It’s annoying, but what can we do?
Our throwaway culture isn’t just about technology. Every day in the UK, we throw away approximately 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes, and the average family throws away the equivalent of 24 meals a month. Not to mention everything else disposable in the world, such as disposable plates and cutlery, nappies, and more.
In 100,000 years, I will be long gone, but the rubbish I get rid of now will be floating around in the ocean, washed up on a beach somewhere, or polluting the land. Something to think about, isn’t it?