Explain the concept of the "Throw-Away Society."

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of the throwaway society is that we have become a society that consumes a lot of stuff and which throws away too many things.  We have become a society that does not value keeping things around and reusing them.  Instead, we want to be able to throw things away when they have stopped being convenient for us.

The idea of the throwaway society has been with us at least since the 1950s.  At that time, American companies started making things that were aimed at convenience and which were essentially disposable.  For example, they started making “TV dinners” which came on a tray that could be thrown away after the food was eaten.  That saved people the difficulty of having to wash dishes. 

This trend has accelerated since the 1950s.  Now, many of the things we use are made with the idea of “planned obsolescence.”  In other words, the manufacturers know that the goods will only last a relatively short while and that we will throw them away when they are no longer good.  Things that we now use, like mp3 players and computers, are relatively cheap.  Therefore, as they get old and wear out, we simply throw them away instead of paying to repair them.  This is in contrast to how things once were when there would be all sorts of repair shops that would fix things for you so you would not have to throw them away.

The throwaway society is one where we value convenience more than frugality and where we do not care how much we throw away.

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "throw-away society" is a byproduct of technological progress and consumerism. In a throw-away society, the production of goods is based on the philosophy of "planned obsolescence." This means that products last only for a period of time before they become useless or outdated. Some good examples of products that are manufactured with this philosophy in mind are computers, software, cellphones, and virtual reality gaming systems.

In a throw-away society, many of these products do not necessarily stop working just because manufacturers have produced updated versions. Instead, what propels consumerist behavior is the idea that having the most updated, app-filled, and sophisticated model of cellphone/car/television/computer/virtual reality gear adds to one's social relevance. 

Also, because of technological progress, newer versions of operating systems and software consistently outgrow older, aging hardware. Often, manufacturers design new software to be incompatible with the older hardware. This forces consumers to discard older products, hence contributing to the problem of a "throw-away society."

Manufacturers also consistently employ the "planned obsolescence" philosophy in making their products because it increases their profit margin. Many of these manufacturers believe that, if they can tempt their customers to purchase the latest versions of their products, they will continue to remain financially viable for years to come.