Chice is a good thing, but this does not neccessarily make us happier. When we choose one product, we feel regret at not being able to have the benefits the other products that were on offer may have over the chosen one, therefore we are not completely satisfied with our choice. In todays market our choice is phenomenal, good for choice but it also has its downsides like more waste. For lets say choosing milk the least popular milk in a store will have the most waste if it is left on the shelf for too long and nobody buys it, it will go off and into the bin. This means that all that production, pastuerisation, plastic/cardboard carton energy costs goes straight into the bin aswell as adding to landfill or emmissions through incinerators. Also our E-waste is incredible. This creates environmental and healthcare problems. Problems like the massive emmissions needed to create these products, the toxics involved in manfacture and the damage to health when they are created and so called ‘recycled’. They are designed for the dump. There are plenty of ways we can step in and reduce these problems but we cannot simply buy our way out of it we must take action and not just discuss the problems and solutions.
The average person in western society produces 560kg of waste per year. Out of 1000kg of products purchased only 100kg is kept as long term durables. The average age of hiusehold appliances when discarded ranges from 2 – 12 years. Only one quarter were actually soled or donated. Also, one in ten products still work when they are discarded. These facts show how are way of life has changed. We are getting proggressively more and more damaging to the earth and ourselves through increasing emmisions, waste and the use of toxics. We need to take a step back and see where things can be changed. 80% to 90% of a products environmental and economic impacts are decided in the design and development stage of a product so this is clearly the place to start.
Here is a typical life cycle of a soccer ball:
1: Soccer balls are made from a variety of raw materials.
- Crude oil and other materials are used to make variuos kinds of plastic and polymers, including polyuretane (PU), thermoplastic polyuretane (TBU), butyl and silicon.
- Natural latex rubber is extracted from plants.
- Glue is made from natural rubber, animal bones, fish, starch, milk protein and casein.
- Cotton picked from plants.
2: Raw materials must be processed before the materials can be used for the production of the ball.
- Stitching or glue is used to fuse the hexagons together.
- Lining is composed of polyester and bonded together.
- Bladder made from natural latex rubber.
- Hexagons made from synthetic leater or rubber.
3: Putting the pieces together.
- Surface materials are rolled out – usually several layers of synthetic foam fillied panels are glued or laminated together.
- The lining is but together. The polyester and cotton lining are multi-layered and glued to the cover. The more layers, the better the shape and the durability.
- Panels are cut to exact number needed for the ball.
- External panels are silk screened with graphics and logos. Clear urethane then applied for protecion.
- The ball is then either hand or machine stitched.
- The ball is then transported to the retailer by plane or ship to the country where it will be sold and then by truck or train to the retailer. This causes emmisions from the burning of fossil fuels which contribute to air pollution and climate change.
- Luckily for balls, they are usually not packaged and if they are it is a thin plastic bag covering or a cardboard box.
5: The ball is used until it is punctured or no longer of playing quality.
6: What happens then?
- It is bined as it cannot be recycled. As most of the materials are glued, stitched or printed on they are too difficult to recycle.
- One way you could reuse it could be to give it to your dog as a chew toy.
One of the biggest phenomenon I have learned of is the fact that electronic companies design things to last for only afew years they are not designed to last. When a new phone comes out the old one’s charger won’t fit the new phone so its then useless, everyone has some drawer full of old chargers that work but cannot be used, only one example of designing for the dump. There is a law in electronics called Moores law which states that processor speeds can be doubled every eighteen months. Instead of making the existing products long lasting, planned obsolescence is used to ensure that companies can make as much money as possible by making products easy to break, impractical to repair and hard to upgrade. When a DVD player breaks it would cost you about forty euro just to get it seen. Why do that when a new one only costs twenty euro in Argos? So as you can see companies try to maximise sales by ensuring short life spans. They drip drop us the technology every eighteen months so that an old computer simply becomes obsolete.
Link to a persons site campaigning against planned obsolescence: http://typedesk.com/2011/01/21/vitsoes-campaign-against-planned-obsolescence/
We now will look at manufacture. When laptops and computers are made they are created using toxic chemicals such as pvc, mercury, solvents and flame redardents. This is devastating to employee health. A company in silicon valley IBM released data on its own company showing employee’s at the plant had a 40% greater chance of having a miscarriage, and a 10% greater chance of developing blood, brain and kidney cancer than those that worked elsewhere. Instead of the company paying to design computers that don’t need the use of toxics employers pay for it with their health. When our E-waste is recycled it is only sent to countries such as China, Pakistan, Nigeria and many more. In these countries in these ‘recycling plants’ workers with no protective gear smash open the product, extract the valuable metals and simply burn the rest. Their air and water is polluted and this must stop.
We must ban E-waste exports. Instead of exporting our E-waste to foreign countries, we should introduce better laws that ensure extended producer responsibility in other words let them deal with the E-waste. If they had to deal with the waste, youy can be pretty sure they would be on to their designers pretty quickly to make products longer lasting, modular, less toxic and more recyclable. Instead of doubling computer speeds, they should have targets like the use of toxics cut in half every eighteen months and the damage to workers healths cut at an even greater rate. As already mentioned we cannot simply buy our way out of this we must protest, boycott or any other means necessary to stop there careless damage to people and the earth while their pockets grow fatter and fatter. Also normal products we should introduce mechanisms for dealing with our own waste here in Ireland. We need to introduce legislation thet will reduce waste but also we do need an incinerator.