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Material scarcity compelled our colonial forefathers to recycle. They valued clothes, utensils, furniture, houses, barns, plows and other items, which their community produced. After our nation’s birth, Mary Ball Washington treasuring her cast iron cookware bequeathed the “iron kitchen furniture” to son George.

Our nation emerges during industrialization’s inception. Transition from agrarian society launches efficient farming, mechanized fabrication, chemical manufacturing, iron production and steam power among others. Industry spurs unprecedented population growth with increased urbanization. It empowers war on an unparalleled scale. During World War II, U.S. domestic rationing of food and other products support troops. Manufacturers promise widespread availability of goods upon winning the war. Achieving Allied victory, consumerism shifts perspective with thrift becoming somehow unAmerican.

Business starts promoting products with planned obsolescence in the 1950s. A tsunami of trash results. Today’s average U.S. citizen discards 4.4 pounds of trash daily, equaling nearly twice the global average per person.

Pursuing convenience of single-use plastics and purchasing the latest shiny object wastes natural resources and degrades our environment. Regulate planned product obsolescence by employing Pete Seeger’s guidance: “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, (re)designed or removed from production.”

Roger Combs


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