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Indeed, consumer society is a “throw-away” society, since consumers are the final agents in the production and distribution channel with their actions after the purchase of products is not taken care of.
Statement of the Problem
Reasons for considering consumer society as a “throw-away” society:
- The desire of consumers to have the newest and the best products has prompted businesses and companies to try to be abreast of the trends in demand. For example, one may think of the number of phones, iPods as well as computers which a UK customer has bought in the past few years. As a rule, the old one may have worked fine, but the desire to have the latest and the greatest model to in with the new technology has made them abandon their old version.
- Massive product promotion campaigns on social and other reliable media to persuade consumers to impulsive buy and consume. For instance, the billboards in the UK streets remind consumers of the “quality of life” upon consuming a given type of product.
- Establishment of “one-stop shopping”. These are supermarkets that influence consumers’ consumption patterns. For example, Tesco supermarkets dominate the UK food consumption market, for “one-third of all food shopping is done at Tesco”.
Ultimately, to save the planet as well as its scarce resources, consumers around the world need to reduce consumption. With the current rate at which consumers are creating waste, much effort is needed to bring a real difference in consumer society.
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Consumer Society Is a “Throw-Away” Society
Consumer society refers to a group of people in the production and distribution channel whose main activity rests upon consuming the final product. They form the most important agents in production and distribution since their presence completes the chain of production. Lots of spending, resources, and investments are concentrated on the consumption of goods and services irrespective of whether these goods or services consumed are good for health or the environment. The contemporary society produces excessive amounts of disposable products, and the consumer society is in the grip of consumerism (Taylor et al., 2009).
Manufacturing companies invest massive resources in advertisement campaigns for their products to convince as well as influence the pattern of consumption. With this high-profile product promotion campaign, consumers eventually purchase more than they require. Since consumers are the last and most important agent in the production process, their actions after purchasing the product, such as waste disposal, are not addressed in the distribution process, thus, justifying the claim that the consumer society is a “throw-away” society (Taylor et al., 2009).
Consumer society consumes goods, services, or experiences which they face during their daily operations (Staples et al., 2009). People shop for more necessary items to meet their daily needs and things to afford the identity and lifestyle within the society. Their usage of these goods does not necessarily mean that they are exhausted since some become leftovers, packaging, obsolete, bad, or damaged goods and are thrown away. That is why consumers all over the world have things to dump every day. However, presently, packaged and canned goods and foods are everywhere and widely available to all. Big shops and restaurants like MacDonald package take away food products in plastic bags which are disposed of after use. This has increased the number of disposable packages and things to throw away whenever people live. In the consumer society, such goods may be in good condition for use, but their services are no longer valuable (Taylor et al., 2009). An example of such items is the used plastic bottles to pack soft drinks like water, which become less valuable after consuming their content. The British government is contemplating using them to generate jet fuels.
Few people living in the developed nations want to dump all such goods or services. For example, one may think of a situation where a person goes to a grocery and picks up packaged goods for consumption at home. He/she carries the goods home in either plastic bags or containers provided at the store. Such people are so much taken by modern packaging materials which are more portable, cheap, attractive, and comfortable to carry home. To some extent, such materials are more hygienic and indirectly contribute to good health during their useful lives. Such materials as plastic bags and bottles turn to wastes after delivering the goods home. Their accumulation can become an environmental hazard if not well managed.
The desire of consumers to spend more on every new and the best item has made the consumer society unsustainable (Taylor et al., 2009). With these trends in demand, businesses, as well as companies, are constantly trying to be abreast of this trend. With new products always being manufactured, consumers abandon their old versions to own the best product available. This cycle continues, as newer products are released in the consumer market (Staples et at., 2009).
Most consumers in the UK society want to identify themselves with new, unique, and best products in the market since the latter define their class and lifestyle. Change of lifestyle and technology has rendered most old products unfashionable, and, they are, thus, abandoned in the consumer society (Taylor et al., 2009). These goods urgently find their way into dumping sites though still in good conditions, as they pave way for class, lifestyle, and technology to lure consumers’ minds and budgets. As more changes in lifestyle and technology are embraced, more people will abandon old items for new goods in the market. This is the characteristic of the current “throw-away” society.
There is a significant change in major towns across the world. So many people have moved to urban areas in the recent past, that this factor has increased the population in major cities of the world. However, there are fewer shops around, there are more eating places, retail parks, and shopping malls (Staples et al, 2009). Since there are more people to eat and purchase items from these sites, there are more chances of creating wastes and, hence, more garbage to collect. This is because much of this population is driven towards consumerism. More products have been used by this population since the 1950s than throughout the rest of human history, and this rise in consumption has been largely attributed to the rise in world population.
Social factors influencing consumer activities in society include income, peer group pressure/family, education, and media (Staples et al., 2009). More income in the society initiates greater spending and greater consumption by people leading to the creation of more wastes. People with less time to spend may avert from buying more labor-saving services or goods like disposable foods which become bad easily and become a waste. Similar influences, which are poised by peers, can lead to the purchase of unnecessary goods from the market to comply with the social group. These goods are later found useless by the consumer adding them to the junk of wastes. On the other hand, changes in technology in the world have subjected some products to early obsolescence. The change has ushered in new items for people to use, which are luxurious and more comfortable to use compared to the previous ones. A very good example is the use of computers, which have been replaced with iPods, tablets, and laptops by technology. This has rendered computers “useless” and uncomfortable to use, thereby, creating unnecessary waste in society. Such a society considers consumption much more important than occupation (Taylor et al., 2009).
In conclusion, consumers need to understand that garbage creation has increased, and they should find ways of reducing them to save the world and its scarce resources (Coope, 2010). Their unlimited consumption habit of a variety of goods has massively led to a great amount of waste which is later thrown away. The world is experiencing a shift in the state of production and technology, which changes the consumer world today and justifies the claim that the consumer society being a “throw-away” society. The consumer position in the production chain rests upon consuming after which the remaining good is thrown away. Consumers themselves form throw-away sites for goods or services from the production and distribution process. This justifies the claim of the consumer society being a “throw-away” society (Taylor et al., 2009).
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