Explore the Claim That a Consumer Society Is Always a ‘Throw-Away’ Society

Explore the claim that a consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society

There are various viewpoints as to the positives and negatives of consumer society, and clear links between the rise in mass consumption and the levels of waste that is produced. ‘Consumer society’ is a term used to describe how the buying and selling of goods and services and the ways in which they are used, are as important in the shaping of society, as the social and economic activities that individuals participate in (Making Social Lives, Chapter 1, page 13). As a society we are encouraged to consume at an alarming rate, which inevitably causes an increase in the waste that is produced. However, in order to establish whether this indicates that a consumer society is ‘always’ a throw-away society there are considerations.
When analysing the amount of rubbish generated by an average consumer in the UK, it is clear that there have been significant changes in attitudes over a 23 year period. However, it could be said that not all of these changes are as positive they could be. From 1983 – 2001 the total amount of rubbish generated by one consumer rose from 397kg to 516kg, and from 2001 – 2006 it then decreased to 508kg per person, a reduction of just 8kg. The report The Food We Waste states that up to a third of the food bought annually in the UK is disposed of, with 61% of this being disposed of unnecessarily. This amounts to around 6.7 million tonnes of fresh food being thrown away (WRAP 2008a, 2008b, cited in Brown 2009, p.106), most of which could be avoided with better management and awareness. Although the majority of household rubbish generated today is recyclable, statistics show that the recycling rate for the UK is considerably less than in other EU countries. The Local Government Association announced in 2007 that the amount of rubbish disposed of in UK landfill sites, amounted to the same quantity as the other 18 EU countries combined, leading to the UK being dubbed “ the...