The Throwaway Mentality

Aug 20, 2011 by

There are a significant amount of products that are being produced, and unfortunately purchased, that have severely limited lifespans. The products the United States and other countries produce have a similar poor quality of materials, and usually do not last.  Using poor and therefore less expensive materials keeps production costs down so that business can reap greater profit. How much profit do you need to make, and at what cost to society? Some might call this planned obsolescence. I understand the strategy of obsolescence. A product becomes obsolete because innovation and improved technology has occurred, not because of poor materials. Electronics are a good example. As technology improves we have more efficient cellphones, televisions etc. What is occurring is not obsolescence. When common and time tested products, for example furniture,  are made to self destruct, we have a larger problem than the unnecessary spending of money, which is a problem in itself. It teaches us to simply throw things away. This can also lead to poor workmanship. If a worker believes that what they are producing is not going to last why strive for excellence in workmanship. This diminishes the value of the time, effort, and skill necessary to produce the product. When something is made with superior materials it lasts. When we understand the connection between labor and materials we will be less likely to throw things away.  Superior materials are usually able to be repaired. If the product breaks, we fix it. This helps the economy by conserving scarce resources and keeping skilled craftsmen employed repairing those products.  What do we learn from this? First, the value of our resources, because not all resources are renewable. Second, the value of property. We earn money, and what we purchase must be equal in value to the amount of labor used to earn it. Third, if we cannot appreciate and respect the value of our property how are we going to respect other people’s property. Fourth, the value of the individual and their time, effort and skill to produce the products.

The throwaway mentality easily influences other more important structures in our society. When this becomes our mode of operation, we can easily transfer it to relationships. Our marriage is falling apart, get a divorce. Our children do not behave, buy them another toy to keep them occupied and away from us. Our friendships are not as satisfying, get new friends. What will we throw away next?




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  1. Athena

    I think all of this really stems from us being a consumerist society. There is no pride in making something that will last, but rather something that is cheap and sells well. The people like for things to break down so they can buy the latest updated product and feel a sense of joy that they moved ahead. My question is that even if there is a change in heart of the people, can we turn back from our consumerist ways without collapsing as a country and having to rebuild ourselves? Before the Depression there was a surplus of goods specifically because they did not break down contributing to the coming of the Great Depression. What can we do about this?

  2. Vince Giglio

    We do not want to go back, but move forward. Moving forward involves reassessing our purpose. Buying stuff is not our purpose. There is no proper use of talent or creativity in buying, accumulation, and hording of stuff. Maybe this was true 10,000 years ago, based on a need for survival, but not today. Our purpose is achieving excellence using our talents to improve our condition in today’s world. Because we have made progress and advancements in the production of needs we should have more time to pursue our dreams. Dream big. We should be exploring our universe, not by telescope but in person. We should be turning our talents to solving hunger. We definitely produce enough food to feed the world, but hunger exists. We waste time inventing drugs to pleasure ourselves rather than working towards the cure of diseases that can kill us. These are just a few examples. If the education system would do its job and inspire young people to be thinkers, problem solvers, dreamers, and doers we would be headed in the right direction. If people would elect leaders instead of managers we would have roads instead of road blocks to accomplish great things. We will not end up with a “surplus of goods” but the creation and innovation of the most wonderful things that the mind can dream up.

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