Written by Young Ambassador Louisa May

Have you ever wondered where all your waste goes, where the bin men take your rubbish? Ever wonder where your old computer or clothes go once you throw them away?

No - it is not something that we tend to think about. We mindlessly dispose of products without questioning where they go, how they are disposed of or the environmental impacts of our waste. You may find it hard to believe that we have exhausted our waste sink hole capacity and that waste disposal is one of the biggest environmental challenges our planet faces today – but it is!

After reading this, I hope you will become consciously aware of your own consumption habits and the damaging nature of overconsumption, which goes hand in hand with our waste disposal crisis.

If waste disposal is such an issue, why are we not affected by it in the UK?

This is due to waste distancing; the physical and mental distance between consumers in the West and their waste. Much of our waste is exported overseas to poorer countries where environmental and waste disposal laws are more lax. These countries have little choice but to accept others waste, which pollutes their homes, land and water.

Moreover, many of the products we consume are made in factories abroad, producing toxic industrial waste which is not disposed of properly. This distance creates the illusion that waste disposal is not a problem, but we are just privileged enough to not see or feel the environmental effects of our waste crisis.

How do your consumption habits impact the waste disposal crisis?

Consumption is an undeniable necessity, we need clothes, food and toiletries and we love to treat ourselves to a new jumper or update our phones. However, as a society we are guilty of overconsumption which aggravates the problem of waste disposal.

Overconsumption is a product of consumerism, which is deeply embedded into the nature of our society. It demands that products are produced in high volumes, feeding hungry consumers who are never satisfied and want the latest trends, technologies and products in the cheapest and most accessible way. It is probably cheaper to buy an item of clothing new than to repair it due to large scale production, but in 2018, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfill. Our consumption habits are unsustainable and they need to change!

We need to be more conscious consumers, only buying what we need and not overindulging on products we will not use. If each person consciously changed their consumption habits, we could make big strides in tackling our global waste disposal crisis.

Inspired to reduce your waste?

Waste Free February

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Clapp, J. (2002) ‘The Distancing of Waste: Overconsumption in a global economy’ in Confronting Consumption, Princen, T eds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press