Kicking the Disposable Habit

Garbage can filled with coffee cups

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of consumerism in Canada and, more broadly, North America and I think we have a serious problem. Nearly everything we buy is designed to be disposable. Clothing, bags, accessories, and other every-day items are usually made as cheaply as possible – usually imported from other countries where labour is cheaper (often unethically cheap) — and simply doesn’t last for very long. This needs to change if we want to combat waste and stop polluting our planet.

We live in a capitalist society so it makes sense that businesses have an incentive to produce goods cheaply. Cheap production means that the products are cheaper and so they are more accessible to consumers. It also means they the are unlikely to last longer than a year or two so a lot of these things end up in a landfill. I think spending more money on goods that are durable and, more importantly, repairable is a great way to reduce waste. Some may argue that spending more on goods is inaccessible to some; I think that, while the upfront cost will be higher, the lifetime cost will be the same or less by repairing instead of buying again.

Some countries like Sweden are introducing laws that give tax breaks to citizens by allowing them to claim back income tax from labour costs on repairs. If we can encourage more governments to follow suit — and hopefully Canada’s — I think we can start to slowly change people’s mindset on buying by tacking on a financial incentive.

I don’t think that a global economy and high quality durable goods are mutually exclusive goals. Personally, I try to buy local as much as possible, but I also value the growing global economy. I do think, though, that there is too much focus on getting costs down as much as possible and producing very low quality goods.

I plan on making a larger effort on reusing and repairing my possessions going forward.