OPINION: Our Throwaway Society is Swamping Us
I was recently asked to join a ‘plastic pick up’ event in a park for an hour or two so decided to go along and see what sort of things we are chucking on the ground these days! To be fair it wasn’t that littered, I think parks are fairly well maintained. But then why do we throw stuff on the ground at all? Especially when litter bins are provided more or less everywhere. Anyway, there was the usual cigarette butts, plastic bottles, wrappers, straws, broken hangers (?) and plastic cutlery. But I was also disconcerted to find broken glass near a pond full of birds and with children running around. I have written before about how this whole plastic deluge was forced upon us by corporate business.
But my concern here is with how we became such a throwaway society. Why do we feel it is OK to just throw any unwanted rubbish on the ground or the street or into our front gardens, or worse still shared gardens and the streets? It wasn’t so long ago when all children were encouraged to take litter home with them, and that stayed with us. But things have changed. A lot. A walk through my local area reveals mattresses thrown in front gardens – sodden from the rain – old toilets sitting outside bin sheds, broken baths, old TVs, unwanted clothing, toys, plastic bags full of takeaway boxes, all lying on the ground instead of the bins or being dealt with responsibly by the person who doesn’t want them, builders materials loaded into private residents bins rendering them too full for normal rubbish (see aforementioned, the two are probably linked), grass verges strewn with general litter, rubbish lying next to street bins instead of being in them (if it’s full, take your rubbish home!).
All of the above has probably been exacerbated by the fact that many councils now charge for collection of larger rubbish items, or you only get so many per year, or they only collect for council tenants etc. However there are various dumps around and I find it incomprehensible that people want to live with all kinds of dumped furniture and rubbish lying on their streets, in their gardens or outside bin sheds. Whatever happened to builders and /or their customers paying for a skip? None of this is helped of course by the idea that we must have everything new, all the time, and as often as possible. The councils and government ram the idea of recycling at us all the time, but surely the best form or recycling is at source – ie look after or repair what you already have rather than keep looking to replace it. Don’t give in to advertising pressure to keep on buying the newest gadget!
I cannot go any further without mentioning, in my opinion, the worst issue of all – flytipping! Driving to a friends house awhile ago I noticed some huge cupboards dumped on the corner of two busy roads. They stood out like a sore thumb. How on earth did they get there… and why? On arriving at my friends place I mentioned it and she said she had seen a similar thing – this time a sofa – outside her local tube station in the morning. Funnily enough the next morning I saw the bin men struggling to deal with a lot of furniture, including a TV, outside the same station. The flytippers had been very busy!
This has gone on for a long time and I know the police struggle to catch up with perpetrators. But it is the audacity that takes my breath away. I have even seen flytippers arrive in a van and try to load a sofa into a bin shed belonging to a block of flats on my way to work. Absolutely disgusting of course, but none of this would be happening if we weren’t so keen on replacing and throwing away everything rather than valuing and repairing, surely? The only answer I can give as to why this throwaway attitude has developed is because of rampant consumerism – in my opinion the biggest ‘ideology’ and change in our society. Most of this was unheard of in just one generation prior.
Our whole society’s attitude to responsibility for everything we buy, own and use needs to be turned on its head before we become swamped in our own rubbish. Then it will be easy to gain back control. Let’s not leave it til the oceans are full to bursting, the streets are unbearable and we suffocate in our own rubbish.
And we can begin by turning those adverts off!