"As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome" - Noam Chomsky
Black friday. Probably the best modern example of our primal desire to accumulate and acquire the newest and best. The concept of the American tradition celebrating thanksgiving on the second monday of each November, has become tainted by the capitalist system and our frequent exposure to advertisements by money-hungry corporations.
The concept of Black friday is a global issue, as it's now utilized for commercial gain on an international scale. Of course, there are benefits of black friday, such as making expensive items available to people with low wage work and less disposable income. It can also boost the economy through the circulation of money in exchange for goods and services. I myself take advantage of these sales as a student. The problem arises when there is such global influx in purchasing items merely for the sake of its price. The saying 'out with the old, in with the new' definitely applies here which can have destructive environmental effects. As shown in the picture above, a popular choice for many individuals is to buy new technology. Seeing as technology is expensive it is easy to understand its popularity during sales. However, new technology often leads the old technology to end up in landfills. A 2017 report from the International Telecommunications Union found that in 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated (The Big Issue, 2018). Not only does this expose the environment to toxic chemicals such as lead and BFRs (flame retardant chemicals: Bromine, Antimony, Chlorine) but only 20% of this may actually be recycled. Even so, technology is circulated back into non-electronic products (consumer goods) through poor separation methods in the recycling process. These products can range from a thermos flask lid to microwave meals - food packaging, and products that directly enter peoples mouths. The health risks have been investigated, and BFRs (in the form PBDE) are present in ambient air, water, sediment, fish, and vegetation, linking it to thyroid disorders, diabetes, reproductive health, cancers, and neurobehavioral and developmental disorders (Kim, Y. R., et al., 2014).
Additionally, online sales have become increasingly popular, and often preferable during black friday sales due to its 'at home' convenience. It also provides access to a larger variety of products, making it easier to buy more. Shipping, however, contributes to more plastic, paper, and cardboard use for packaging than if one was buying it in-store. Eventually, they are transported right to our doorstep using ships, airplanes and trucks - all of which expend fuel and release CO2 emissions. I think that it's often easy for people to overlook issues such as this because online shopping is like a blinker for humans. We don't tend to see the mass of waste created in this process, so what we can do is become aware of the issues so that we can change our habits.
Reflection: How much do you contribute to the the black friday sales, and how much of those products are a 'need'?
The Big Issue. (2018). Black Friday's e-splurge comes at a massive green cost for the environment. [online] Available at: https://www.bigissue.com/latest/technology/black-fridays-e-splurge-comes-at-a-massive-green-cost-for-the-environment/ [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].
Kim, Y. R., Harden, F. A., Toms, L. M. L., Norman, R. E. (2014), 'Health consequences of exposure to brominated flame retardants: a systematic review', Chemosphere, 106, pp. 2, Available at: https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0045653513017293/1-s2.0-S0045653513017293-main.pdf?_tid=53ce9a11-e7f6-4a74-889f aadb789c021&acdnat=1541421639_c1b8bc8f6ee4b5ecc09b317483672725
Hi, I'm Fotini - Just a student trying to make the world more conscious of our actions, so we can manage the consequences.