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After WWII, there was an overall shift in mindset from reusability to disposability. During the Great Depression and war, people had to reuse almost everything. Throughout the Great Depression, most people didn’t have enough money to buy new things and were forced to repurpose what they already had. After that, during World War II, the government encouraged everyone to reuse in order to preserve resources that were needed for the war effort. As a result of this, a whole generation grew up with the motto “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”
When plastic became ubiquitous after WWII, this “reuse everything” mentality turned into a consumption mindset. Over the course of a few years, an entire generations’ worth of beliefs were dispelled. As people learned how to dispose instead of reuse, a consumption mindset was created. In 1955, Life Magazine came out with an article called “Throwaway Living”. The image used in the article depicted a family with plastic conveniences raining down around them, and Life stated in the article that cleaning the reusable versions of these products would have taken 40 hours, but “no housewife need bother”. This report accurately depicted the then modern lifestyle of convenience and consumption, where people used things once and then threw them away with no concern for where all the trash went. As plastic products started to become more commonplace, the general populations’ mindset shifted from reusability to disposability.
This key shift in mindset was caused by businesses who used targeted advertisements to convince consumers to buy their new plastic products. Companies saw a giant market in disposable goods. At first, businesses just used plastic to make large, reusable products such as cars and refrigerators. Companies quickly realized that people could only buy so many cars, and in order to make more money, they would have to create a new market of disposable products that forced the consumer to spend money over and over again. In fact, in 1956, a speaker at a convention for plastic manufacturers candidly told them “Your future is in the garbage wagon. ” The newly emerging plastic industry recognized that they would make a lot more money with disposable goods, and as a result, they used targeted ads to push consumers to buy single-use items, throw them away, and buy them again. One clear example of this is the disposable lighter, which first appeared in the United States in the 1970s. Two prominent companies took up production of disposable lighters: Bic and Gillette. During the 1970s, both companies competed furiously with one another and used intense marketing campaigns to try and gain a majority hold on the market. By the 1980s, worldwide annual sales for disposable lighters, a product which was neither necessary nor considerably better than ordinary lighters, was us to more than 350 million. These two companies used targeted marketing to lure in customers and convince them to buy disposable lighters, which consumers ended up throwing out and buying more of.
After WWII, the general shift in mindset from reusability to disposability was caused by targeted ads used by businesses trying to make more money.
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