Hyperconsumerism Adds to the Trash Problem

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To Murray, the problem isn't just the vast amounts of leftover food and household waste that we hand off to garbage collectors. It's the detritus of our hyper-consumerism. "We throw away last year's model because we just have to have this year's model," he said. "As a result, last year's model ends up in the waste stream."

Part of the blame for that, Murray said, rests with people who seldom give a thought to what happens when they discard something. But much of the responsibility, he said, lies with companies that have only one message for customers—buy, buy, buy.

"Manufacturers are in the business of selling more and more stuff," Murray observed. "They're constantly trying to get people to buy a new version, an upgraded version."

Jon Myers, director of public affairs for the state Integrated Waste Management Board, acknowledged that companies can be doing a lot more to reduce waste throughout California. But he said his agency, which oversees the 92 million tons of trash generated statewide each year, is already working closely with a variety of companies to show them how they can operate in a more environmentally friendly way without cutting into profits.

"The good news is that we're doing a lot of recycling and taking other steps to reduce waste," Myers said. "The bad news is that we're not doing enough."

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