The term “throw-away society” was first coined in the year 1995 to describe a new style of culture that is given to overconsumption and is dedicated to the production of disposable items.
We consume and dispose.
What do we consume? Food. Clothing. Packaging. Unwanted everything.
Industrialized nations have created a demand for ridiculously low priced clothing that can be worn only once or twice and then tossed in the landfill. Tiny bits of food come in tremendous amounts of packaging. A fast food meal is given to a customer in a large styrofoam box and then placed inside a plastic bag just to be carried the fifteen feet to a table and then thrown away within minutes. Containers and packaging now represent 32 percent of our city waste.
However, people are starting to wake up to the problems that we’ve created. After looking around, we are starting to feel a general disgust at our wastefulness. Even Pope Francis has recognized and speaks about a “throwaway culture” in which we are characterized by pollution, waste, a lack of recycling, and the destruction of the earth.
It’s enough to be overwhelming. How can the changes that any of us make be enough? Small changes feel JUST TOO SMALL.
Well, we are here to tell you that they are not. Small changes can be significant. Meaningful. World changing.
Let’s look at the smallest thing that we use and dispose- plastic straws. We receive them in our drinks without even a second thought, but consider the statistics:
Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws daily – enough to fill 127 school buses and circle the earth’s circumference 2.5 times. Five hundred million straws weigh about the same as 1,000 cars (close to 3 million pounds), which is a massive amount of plastic to throw in landfills on a daily basis.
According to our friends at treehugger.com, “Straws, which are made of a petroleum byproduct called polypropylene mixed with colorants and plasticizers, do not biodegrade naturally in the environment. They are also nearly impossible to recycle, so nobody really bothers. Some are incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals into the air, but most end up in the ground, where they will hang around for an estimated 400 years and leach chemicals into the ground. That means that every straw ever used still exists on this planet.”
EVERY STRAW EVER USED STILL EXISTS ON THIS PLANET.
Consider joining the organization One Less Straw to start making a change. This group, who gives us the above statistics, was started by two young kids, and is dedicated to reducing the waste on this planet caused by plastic straws. Visit their website at onelessstraw.org to sign a pledge in which you commit to not use any straws during the month of October. Consider the plastic straw alternatives of glass, metal, bamboo, or paper straws. Believe it or not, you can even find straw straws. Revolutionary.
“Hey guys, are you taking part in No Straw October?” Ask it. Let’s watch our small changes accumulate to one Big Change. Do something is always better than doing nothing.
Today’s to-do list:
- Fix something instead of throwing it away
- Encourage a friend to do the same
- Buy only what’s necessary
- Skip the straw
About the Author
Rhonda LaBatt is the founder of Redemption Market, a fair trade boutique based in Phoenix, Arizona. Starting with a small partnership helping young women rescued from trafficking, it’s now grown to provide aid for more than a dozen organizations, providing clean water, building schools, and securing employment for some of the most vulnerable of the earth. She lives with her husband Kerry and three amazing teenage daughters, the youngest they adopted from Peru when she was ten years old. Rhonda loves to teach others about ways to fight human trafficking, the joys of adoption, and the sweetness of enjoying life.