Throwaway Culture

  • Amy Broomhead
  • 5th June 2020

In recent months and years, the media and social media has been filled with ways to reduce waste, what to recycle and where, tips on how to reuse your waste and more. Government legislation has banned single use plastic and businesses seem to be making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of throwaway packaging and plastics they use and sell. This is all an amazing step forward in a more waste aware world. But is this just for show? Are we just shifting the problem from one disposable material to another? Is there a bigger problem here?

Bag for life

New 10p “bags for life” brought in as a sustainable alternative to single use plastic bags by supermarkets to be used and used again are less sustainable than they may seem. They are still made of plastic, but to make them “for life” the plastic bag itself is much thicker, using more plastic to make. These bags are also not designed to last more than a few uses, so while they may be more reusable than their predecessors, the same outcome is just being postponed.

Products are not designed for long term use

Despite companies being active in reducing the waste produced from their packaging, products just are not built to last and many business models all work around the throwaway and buy new culture. The mobile phone industry is a massive culprit of this! For many mobile phones it is not possible to take apart the device to replace parts like batteries, requiring the manufacturer to do so. Because people cannot repair their own products it becomes a hassle to get it fixed so many people will resort to throwing away and buying new.

Further to this, upgrades further fuel this culture, people do not have phones for more than a year anyway before they will be upgraded to a brand-new shiny phone. The outcome of the “old” phone is not necessarily going to be in the bin however this attitude of getting new every year isn’t healthy for this culture.

Non-plastic single use items

Single use plastic has been banned! Hurray! If you go to a bar, pub or fast food restaurant there isn’t a plastic straw in sight. Victory, no? Well yes, the reduction in single use plastic is amazing. However, the reduction in single use plastics has led to these plastics being replaced with other single use products. But they are not plastic, so that’s good right? Single use paper straws are still single use and will still be thrown away after they have been used. The solution would be people taking responsibility and owning reusable alternatives to these single use items such as their own reusable metal or glass straws that can be washed and reused indefinitely.


Greenwashing is the term used to describe companies and products that claim to be green with no evidence to back them up, but the “greenness” alone creates the image of being sustainable. This point is not necessarily about greenwashing but the effect it has had on the buying habits of the population. A reusable plastic bottle is fine, if it is a good quality it should last a really long time. The point of having a reusable bottle is that you own one and reuse it. However, because they have the image of being sustainable people will continue to buy them like fashion accessories. Creating a situation where someone may have 10 reusable plastic bottles. And what happens then? Throw them away because you have too many, then you have gone full circle. Since they contain much thicker plastic than an ordinary plastic bottle throwing them away is so detrimental to the environment.

Large fashion companies are releasing eco-fashion lines, and I am not here to question the validity of their environmental claims. But it is not only the provenance of the garments that need changing, it is the fast fashion culture of buying to throwaway and replace that is what needs to change. Throwing away a recycled cotton top after 6 months is the same as throwing away a brand-new cotton top. So, it is the culture of buying and throwing away clothes that must change, not just how sustainably they are made.