How We Created A Throwaway Society

and became ‘wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontent individuals’ in the process

Photo from Life Magazine article ‘Throwaway Living’. Credit:

“The objects flying through the air in this picture would take 40 hours to clean — except that no housewife need to bother.”

Now just about everything is disposable. We favour cheap, mass-produced furniture from IKEA over solid wood pieces that would last forever. It’s more convenient to buy a single portion meal deal sandwich for lunch each day than to buy (or, heaven above, bake) a loaf of bread for the week. Our clothes are out of style within a few months, and we can’t possible wear the same dress twice. Somehow, we’ve managed to create a throwaway society.

The role of plastic in our throwaway society

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Beyond plastic: disposable everything

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

“…the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals.”

This certainly seems to be the case now. We’re starting to wake up to the hidden costs of our throwaway society, and the environmental impacts which were not considered (or ignored) in those exciting first few decades of the mass consumer society. We’re also starting to see that shopping and having material items doesn’t make us happy, and instead leaves us constantly wanting more — ‘permanently discontented’, as Packard put it.



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