As children, we were taught the importance of never wasting. This was a time when food scraps were used to make compost for the garden and ice cream sticks were collected and used to build creative structures or make art. It was a time when leftovers from the previous night were placed between bread in the jaffle iron for a tasty lunch the next day and tea bags were shared between cups.
So, what changed? How did we turn into a society that according to Australian waste statistics, produces over 18 million tonnes of waste per year? These waste statistics also reveal that every Australian household contributes enough rubbish each year to “fill a three-bedroom house from floor to ceiling”.
We have become a society of constant upgrades; a disposable society. If a dress is torn we throw it away rather than fixing it. If we only need half a tub of yoghurt for a recipe we let the rest spoil and leave it in the back of the fridge. If we have a perfectly working mobile phone we quickly trade it in for the newer model.
Perhaps this change is due to shift in generational experience. Most of us saw our parents as they struggled through the aftermath of wars and recessions; that is how we learnt the importance of saving. We aimed to be better off and have enough savings so that if something happened we would not have to go without.
It is hard to believe that in the depression era many started making their clothing from the sacks that held their flour. In response to this thrifting many companies started to pattern their packaging with small designs so members of the public could have some variation in what they wore. You can’t imagine anyone doing this today. We live in a world of fast fashion where wearing last season’s fashion trends is frowned upon and the focus is on being ‘in fashion’ rather than wearing what is practical.
Younger generations have not had to see the examples of widespread hardship that we did. When growing up the idea of ‘waste not, want not’ was drilled into us and we were certainly not allowed to leave the dinner table before our plates were clean. Perhaps if younger generations had seen what we had seen we would not have this culture of wasting? Or perhaps this is just the trade-off for having a more stable economy?