Since 1955, after Life magazine named it so, the United States of America has been called “The Throwaway Society.” In the United States, society is based on the principal of convenience. In every aspect of life, Americans seek to maximize their output while minimizing their input. Americans buy fast food so that they can eat without the burden of grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning up. Americans get their clothes dry cleaned so that they do not have to worry about the burden of washing, drying, and hanging up their own clothes. And Americans want everything in a neat, ready-to-use package to avoid the burden of preparing it themselves. But these millions of disposable bags, disposable bottles, and disposable cups add up to be a whole mess of trash.
Throw Away Societies Generate High Amounts of Disposable Products and Waste
Last year, America generated 250 million tons of trash, approximately 4.43 pounds of trash per person per day. For comparison’s sake, this much trash is equivalent to 125 million elephants, 1.5 billion burly offensive linemen, or 500 billion pounds of trash. Image 1 provides statistics about trash generation that support the
assertion that the United States is a throw-away society.
With this much trash generated daily as a nation, it would be difficult to argue that America is not a throw-away society. Those who claim America does not have a throw-away society would be unable to account for the face that while America has only 20 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of the world’s resources. This makes America by far the highest per-capita waste generator in the world.
Recycling is Insufficient to Compensate for Trash Output
Of all of this waste, only 34 percent is recycled. Of this 34 percent, a large chunk is not actually remade into new products, like people assume. 40 percent of household waste is not easily composted or recycled, which means that it gets “downcycled,” or made into a lesser-quality product. For example, plastic bottles tossed into the recycling bin will never again be plastic bottles because recycling plastic is too difficult. All in all, as Captain Charles Moore says of the percentage of plastics that Americans recycle, “the under-five-percent of plastics recovered in our waste stream [is] diddly-point-squat.” This inefficiency shows that even if more waste was recycled, it would not be enough to compensate for America’s extreme waste generation.
The Consequences of a Throw-Away Society Are Severe, Visible, and Affect Humans
All of this trash means one thing: the current rate of waste generation in the United States is unsustainable; something must be done. The consequences of the throw-away society mindset are already visible, not only on the environment, but on the economy as well. Excessive waste leads to waste management fees, in addition to the cost of reproducing the disposed of products, the cost of the fuel to transport American garbage overseas, etc. ...