People scrolling through their mobile phones

Throwaway No More

Products that last beyond the warranty or next upgrade cycle? This new plan could make that the norm…

Call me silly, but I expect the things I buy to last.

All too often it costs more to repair an item than it does to simply replace it. I blush thinking of the things I’ve sent to landfill that still had some life in them. Not only is it wasting money, it’s wreaking havoc on the environment and contributing to climate change.


So I was heartened today to see headlines touting new rules targeting the ‘throwaway culture’.

These rules – part of the New Circular Economy Action Plan within the European Green Deal describes the throwaway culture as a ‘linear pattern of “take-make-use-dispose”’. We all know single-use plastic is bad, but the natural resources that go into creating products that are used for a only short time and then binned is just as damaging.

‘There is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three.’

New Circular Economy Action Plan

The plan places new requirements on manufacturers to make products that last longer and can be easily repaired. Think mobile phone screens that can be replaced or a faulty printer that can be repaired locally or lightbulbs that actually last longer than a few months. And it seeks to reduce (over)packaging waste on products as well as increase the re-use or recyclability of the packaging that is used.

People scrolling through their mobile phones

The plan also protects people from companies engaged in ‘greenwashing’ – trying to pass their products off as more environmentally friendly than they really are – as well as empowers the general public to make changes in the way they buy.

For example, I found the section promoting the product-as-a-service really fascinating.

Our feelings around ownership have been changing over the past decade or so. Instead of stocking up on CDs or DVDs, we simply stream all the music, tv and film we want. The ability to hop on a rental bike in London or use a service like Zipcar as and when we need it is changing our desire to have our own bicycle or car.

And the explosion of fashion rental apps shows how this idea can cross into sectors we may not have imagined a few years ago.

A spokesperson from the European Environment Bureau was quoted in the BBC as saying:

‘The strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manufacture, use and dispose of our products in a way that benefits people and the planet.’

It’s a brilliant approach. One I hope has the support of all the members of the EU and is replicated in a post-Brexit UK.

But in the meantime, here are a few things we can all be doing to break free from the throwaway mindset:

  • Think before you buy and really question if you need the latest gadget or if your current model has a bit more mileage in it
  • Prioritise quality over quantity across all your purchases, but especially with your wardrobe
  • Following your grandparent’s advice to ‘mend and make do’ is sound – before you throw something away, see if you can find a local repair shop
  • Instead of sending items to landfill, donate them to the charity or offer them to the local community on apps like Facebook or websites like Freecycle

Saving money and the planet? I think we can all get on board with that…

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