Disposable Society; More Efficient, Economical or not?

disposable society We live in a disposable society, which was first noted, per Wikipedia, by a source in a 1955 Life magazine article titled “throwaway society.” The book ‘Rubbish, The Archaelogy of Garbage’ by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy, states that per Archaeologist Daniel Ingersoll’s 1971 journal notes titled ‘Man in the NE’, the age of throw away world began not in the 20th century but rather in the 19th century, exacerbated secondary to the Industrial Revolution. There have come about some positive benefits secondary to disposability, such as recycling but which outweighs the other?

Mr. Rathje and Mr Murphy’s book ‘Rubbish, The Archaeology of Garbage’ also stated that the “19th century gave us tin cans, corrugated cardboard, ready-made clothes, commercial packaging, factory cut lumber and other mass-produced construction materials; familiar constituents of American’s landfills to this day.” As we are all currently familiar with, our day-to-day jobs evolve around a world of materials/equipment that are used/replaced on a regular basis. We think nothing of dispensing of anything when it begins to cause issues or persistent problems. The days of major technological maintenance and upkeep appear to be slowly becoming extinct vs the ease of disposing and replacing.

The manufacturing of most products we use, work with or wear, has been competitively pushed to the point where most consumers are now offered multiple choices in wide price ranges. This greatly contributes to the generalized acceptance of disposability by consumers, in that items are continuously being produced, marketed and changed on a regular basis, therefore, creating the mindset of having to stay abreast of the changes by staying current with the market.

There are exceptions to our propensity to readily dispose of our material world, that being the control generated by costs and budgets. These two items in themselves are powerful motivating factors in taking care of or maintaining what we have ownership in. In the Industrial world, these factors appear to be more of a decision maker re: self-maintenance vs contract maintenance in small businesses, as opposed to the same decision in large businesses, where pockets are typically deeper and can absorb the costs of maintenance contracts. There is also the factor of the ever-increasing costs of maintenance contracts, which have been escalating out of the roof and leaving a lot of businesses with no choice other than to cancel and do their own upkeep.

In our homes, people are not jumping at purchasing maintenance contracts on computers, appliances, cars etc., secondary to the prohibitive costs, even for moderately priced items that would be cheaper to replace than to purchase their associated maintenance contracts. In the medical field where I spent decades, maintenance of very expensive equipment was an ongoing necessity. In the last year or so, I noted that the costs of the majority of the maintenance contracts had risen to the point of ridiculousness, especially on equipment that was now computerized and more efficient to run as well as maintain. It became a gamble; which was more feasible–maintenance contract vs no contract and fixing off contract when needed.

Maintenance of equipment, in most industries, now appears to require more cerebral involvement rather than physical mechanical maintenance as in the past, secondary to the computerization of so many industries. It’s currently not uncommon to see maintenance done onĀ  computers running entire systems, over the internet. Even though costs are less for physical maintenance with less system down time, more monies are being spent on the training of personnel managing these sophisticated computerized systems. Are we losing or gaining in the big picture?

Individual companies, corporations as well as individuals in their own homes, will have to make the decisions re: economics, efficiency, maintenance and replacement of items within their own environments. Whether right or wrong, I believe the free market enterprise and competitive nature of man will continue to evolve and shape the world with each generationĀ  making its own mark in time, just as those generations before us have. As to whether or not we remain a disposable society, that will be determined and/or decided by the needs of each generation on the planet.

LINK to Rubbish, Archaeological study of garbage

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