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Information on Throwaway Culture

The culture of ‘throwaway’ is pervasive in our world today. The throwaway society is a human society strongly influenced by consumerism. The term describes a critical view of overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items over durable goods that can be repaired.

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If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the US and China.

In the UK we throw away a staggering 460,000 tonnes of bread a year – that’s the equivalent of 177 million slices a week.

If you wear make-up, you could throw away 365 face wipes every year.

There are one billion people underfed, two billion overfed and we waste a third of all food produced.

Around 23,000 tonnes of toothbrushes are sent to landfill every year in America.

In the UK alone we use and throw away 5,000 paper cups per minute. That is seven million cups per day and 2.5 billion cups per year.

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and most of them are used only once.

Statistics from the Tearfund paper on 'Waste'


Change is certainly needed on a structural level, with industry and governments playing a key role. However, we are reminded that the individual cannot abdicate responsibility and there are small lifestyle choices that each of us can make.

Perhaps as a practical step each one of us might consider the waste produced in our households each week. Are there choices that we can make with regard to food, clothing, transport etc that might reduce our personal consumption of Earth’s resources?

Here are just a few simple questions that might provoke reflection:

Do we buy food with a lot of packaging?

Do we shun single-use plastic?

Do we repair or dispose of damaged goods?

Do we compost or send to landfill?

Is all recyclable waste separated in our house?

Are we overly influenced by fashions - clothing, technology, etc?

Find out: Is your local supermarket committed to reducing food waste and plastic wrap?

What would a zero-waste lifestyle look like? Try it for a week or a month.