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Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Throwaway Generations

Yes - I'm talking about us. You, me, our children (but not our parents or grandparents).

I can see a real contradiction in today's society. In the mixed messages we are giving the next generation.

We preach recycling like a religion, and yet the amount of packaging we discard every week is a disgrace. What on earth was going on with Easter egg packaging this year? It seemed more extensive than ever before. Thick cardboard boxes; preformed plastic inner shells that were at least 200% larger than required to hold the egg; accompanying sweets in separate compartments when we can all remember when they used to be encased within the egg.

Imagine a seven year old child. A new brain, just soaking up information from school, tv, books, newspapers etc. This child has, let's say, six Easter eggs similar to the one I described. All that rubbish to throw away - even if the cardboard does go in the recycling bin. It doesn't take a superbrain to realise that producing easter egg boxes uses energy! Now, this is confusing. Adults talk about global warming, climate change and preserving energy and resources. They tut, tut and say how worried they are about future generations and the world they'll grow up in. The seven year old must think - hey - this is my world you're talking about!

Then we just carry on - chucking things away when they stop working, and produce everyday items with so much packaging we need two wheelie bins and two smaller containers to fit all the family's rubbish and recycling in each week.

I can remember when I was a child we only had a single metal dustbin - and that wasn't full most weeks.

Our seven year old must be very confused. Adults are saying one thing and then doing the complete opposite and it's obvious in everything around them.

My tumble drier door broke this week. The machine is only about 3 years old. It can't be repaired and a replacement part costs 75% of the cost of the original appliance! I found myself saying "oh, let's just get another one and take it up the tip".

This is absolutely disgraceful. This is only my second ever tumble drier. The first one, bought in 1979, lasted nearly twenty-five years - it had new seals, a new control panel and only ever broke down once before the casing went rusty and it looked really skanky in my nice new utility room! It was actually still working perfectly well when we gave it to my sister-in-law's parents and they kept it in an outhouse.

What happened to mending and repairing? My dad was always trying to mend things - as was my grandad. It was unheard of to chuck things out if they could be repaired. So much nowadays can't be repaired or reused. An example is electrical plugs. An appliance now comes (heavily packaged) complete with a plug. Whatever happened to re-using old plugs? There's just no point now, so they get chucked out when the appliance fails, along with the appliance.

So our fictitious seven-year old grows up not even knowing how to change a plug.

So come on bloggers - let's come up with some ideas for saving the planet for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My idea for starters is to start selling appliances without plugs again.


Lane said...

Too right Annie. Packaging is one of my (many bug bears). Why does cucumber need to be shrink wrapped? Why does packaged meat have to be in enormous plastic boxes? And yes, Easter egg packaging is shocking, as are children's toys with all those blister packs and little tie wraps.

I read somewhere that washing machines/dryers are only designed now to last an average of 3-4 years unless you pay about 900 quid and upwards for a Miele or whatever.

Good post Annie. I'll have to put my thinking cap on.

Captain Black said...

I was on a plane once and received a tiny plastic package with two peanuts in it. On the back it said "warning - may contain nuts"!

Debs said...

Excellent post.

Since R and I have been recycling most of our waste (we have 4 recycling bins and take metal, plastic, bottles, papers etc to the Parish recycling bins) we have cut down what we throw out by about 3/4, it's incredible what you can do if you think about it.

KAREN said...

The amount of packaging supermarkets use is ridiculous - a simple change there could make a real difference. You're so right about plugs too, which we noticed this week as we had to buy a new washing machine. Unfortunately ours was completely beyond repair but it did last 11 years...not bad considering the amount of use it gets!

HelenMH said...

I think you're absolutely right. Nothing can be mended these days. Many things are deliberately made so they can't be mended - purely so manufacturers can make more money out of us. I'm happy to do what I can by recycling and reusing stuff but there also needs to be a commitment from manufacturers and retailers to just stop doing some of the really crazy things they do.

Fiona said...

It's true. We live in a disposable world.

Btw, Marks and Spencers are the worst. Good thing I can't afford their food any more.

I hate supermarkets - support your local butcher and green grocer who uses those little brown bags - I say.

Cait O'Connor said...

Brilliant blog. I am in full agreement about packaging, it drives me mad and I mentioned it in my latest blog (on recycling) funnily enough. I heard that the WI were suggesting taking all packaging back and dumping it at supermarkets. Great idea but I never saw it happening round here. Bloggers should unite and think of ideas, you are right.

motherx said...

You are quite right! Most of packaging is totally unec. Half the time you end up struggling to flatten it out to get rid of it! Or I find it stored in Ws bed as he collects it!

Tom Foolery said...

Let's start a revolutiin against consumerism. Good post TFX

Mid-lifer said...

Oh yeah - absolutely agree. My son has been lecturing me on plastic bags because they have written letters to Gordon Brown at school. I feel super smug because I get my shopping in large boxes which used to hold their toys.

It kills my back to lift them out of the car but hey - I'm doing my bit.
I wish we had not lost our local shops though. My mum used to have a shopping basket and that was enough to take round the corner to get veg meat etc. Now we have to drive to the supermarket

aliqot said...

My son tells me off for even having a tumble drier.
Not that I use it very often.

But you're right - we shouldn't have to recycle so much actually, since we don't really need so much in the first place.