Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Let's dump the 'Disposable Economy'.

I was on holiday in France recently when I heard a couple discussing the price of disposable nappies/diapers. When our son was a baby we only used cotton items with a disposable (paper) liner and when they were no longer needed we sold most of them as they were still in perfect condition. We certainly never had any problems with rashes etc. In the UK it is estimated that, based on sales, there are 690,000 tonnes of nappy waste each year; most of which are land filled.

In the UK, Throwaway products arrived in the 50’s and sold as convenience items that would also boost the economy, in fact one products proud boast was “You use it once, then you throw it away!”

The trickle of items turned into a flood, and now it is hard to find the original items as paper has taken over from cloth for handkerchiefs, dish cloths, table cloths and napkins, plastic has taken over from glass for liquid containers, paper for wrapping and cloth for bags. It all has to go somewhere, as this place, ‘away,’ does not actually exist. In the UK it is estimated that the last landfill site will shut in 2020 and that those around London will be full by 2010. In addition to running out of landfill in the UK, the world is running out of the cheap oil needed to produce, through manufacture and raw materials, these throwaway items.
This problem is worldwide; China,India, and the other emerging economies also have problems because they now want the living standards of the West.

So now for the surprising figures!

If China and India had two cars for every family, the UK average, then China and India would have more cars than the rest of the world combined. By 2030 China is estimated to need, at the present rate of use, 98 million barrels of oil a day, so say goodbye to the Western lifestyle for your children and grandchildren.

The facts are obvious, the Western throwaway economy will not work for China nor for India, which by 2030 may have a larger population than China, and what of the rest of the world that wants the Western way of life, where will they get their oil, food and water from?

We all must work for a replacement economic way of life with renewable energy, and a reduced consumption of recyclable or multi-use products. What constantly amazes me is that we have the technology to do this now.


mrs green said...

What a brilliant post, Peter - thank you for sharing your insight.

Your thoughts resonate with mine; why can't we change things now with the technology we have. Well of course we know the answer to that lies with greed; some people will not be happy until every last drop of oil has been squeezed out of the last barrel before they make changes.

I can highly recommend a viewing of 'who killed the electric car' for a similar viewpoint :)

Rae x

alotstuff said...

nice blog.....

Andrew Clarke said...

You're quite right, I know. My wife and I used cloth nappies, and we had five children so we well and truly got used to washing them (she more than I, I have to admit.)
And it infuriates and frustrates us to see to volume of 'disposable'
stuff that is generated. Happily, there is a lot more recycling nowadays, but still, huge volumes of plastic, usable metal in tins, and other stuff ends up having to be thrown away. We compost all vegetable matter. Something very useful is a compost shredder. They are expensive, though. It would be good if local councils made them available for people to use.

Andrew Clarke said...

Something to add, if I'm not getting too longwinded: it used to strike me how some 'modern' thinking people with all their concern for the environment still get into a car to go any distance more than 200 yards. Ironic!