Washington, DC.- Did you know that in 2009 Americans produced about 243 million tons of waste, commonly known as trash or garbage? Or to put it in another way: that year every citizen in the U.S. generated about 4.3 pounds of waste per day (almost 2 kgs). These figures, released yearly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, measure the everyday items U.S. citizens use and throw away such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries. According the last report, all of this waste comes from homes, schools, hospitals, and business.
Since the 1960s, the number of trash or garbage tons has increased every year until 2007 when it reached the peak of 255 million tons (88.1 generated in 1960). So, in 40 years the waste in the U.S. multiplied by 2.8 times while its population multiplied by 1.7 times (from 180 million in 1960 to 310 million in 2010). Clearly today this nation consumes more than it used to, and consequently generates much more waste as a society and per individual.
In this context, a Catalan-French documentary entitled ‘The Light Bulb Conspiracy’ arrives in the U.S. It’s a story about the so-called Planned Obsolescence, the deliberate shortening of product life spans to guarantee consumer demand. The film, directed by Cosima Dannoritzer, has been produced by Media 3.14 and Article Z in co-production of Arte France, TVE and TVC, among other collaborations.
The story starts in the 1920s when a secret cartel was set up to limit the life span of the incandescent bulb, converting the light bulb into the first victim of Planned Obsolescence and turning it from a symbol of progress and innovation into a model for designers and entrepreneurs aiming to increase profits and sales – at all cost. Ever since then, Planned Obsolescence has been the basis of the economy, affecting the life spans of products.The bulb case is only one of the examples that the film denounces, explaining the horrific Planned Obsolescence that has fostered the consumer wave over the last 40 years.
It is true that currently, in the United States, 33.8 percent of generated waste is recovered, recycled or composted, and 11.9 percent is burned at combustion facilities, but the remaining 54.3 percent is disposed in landfills. Per person, the figures are also worrying: on average, every American only recycles and composts 1.46 pounds (0.6 kgs) of their individual waste generation of 4.3 pounds per person per day.
I hope this movie is going to influence a society accustomed to constantly buying and throwing away products as part of its lifestyle — much more than any other.
NOTE: The premier of ‘The Bulb Light Conspiracy’ will be on March 17th at the Environmental Film Festival which will take place in Washington, DC.
Source of the chart: U.S. EPA 2009 MSW Characterization Report – Facts and Figures Fact Sheet.