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Disposable Napkins

I’m curious as to when the idea of disposable became synonymous with the idea of cheap. While it would be a hard to case make that it is a bad thing that there is more access to stuff, is it that there is so much stuff that it is valued less? About two years ago my wife and I adopted the use of cloth napkins. For the most part, people’s reactions were that we must have a lot of money to do this. That reaction is, on the surface, understandable. Cloth napkins are much more expensive than their paper counterparts. That is, initially they are. I actually forget the price, but I don’t think that we spent more than fifty on twenty of the napkins. Since then, we haven’t spent any money on buying napkins, nor will we have to until the entirety of them are utterly ruined. Sure, some of them are stained beyond repair, but they still function as napkins. They will only be ruined when they are completely shredded. In the long run though, we don’t have to buy the other kind. I suppose I could make this into an environmental issue but that’s not what this is about.

If one thinks about it, a great majority of the stuff that we owned is designed to be thrown away. We’re not supposed to keep it. These are also things that we use everyday. Is this truly the mark of developed society that we can merely dispose of our stuff on a daily manner and not consider it a loss. We buy pens packs of three to ten, if they get lost (which is almost inevitable) it’s not a big deal and we saunter back to the store to buy another ten pack. In the fall semester I bought a pack of three pens with the specific intent of seeing all three of them to the end. I felt that this was going to be a difficult task, but then again–why should it? Should it be so hard to consider a tool that I use everyday, something that would be difficult to not lose? Is it difficult because I consider those pens to be already lost, or is there something in the pen itself that necessitates that I will lose it? I’m thinking that its the former. That manufacturing and availability have reached the point where losing the pen is only a minor inconvenience, in the same way that a large spill can be soaked up with ten napkins which are then thrown away with no thought about the cost that goes into replacing the item.

Whereever you are reading this, look around and count how many objects could be lost without any inconvenience other than having to go to the local store to replace it. How many of the things that you have would even be missed other than the specific event in which it is needed? I also would like to know which of the things that would be missed, would be missed because of the specific item that they are and not the function which it provides. As I type this the wheel on my mouse is working on a semi-regular basis, it’s a bit frustrating but easily replacable upon the point of it being entirely useless. Is there an effect to this that extends beyond the disposal of our napkins and our tools?

There’s quite a difference between buying a one dollar notebook and a ten dollar notebook. Yet we don’t regard the funciton of the notebook to be anything different between the two only the appearance of the notebook seems to matter. Which is why the ten dollar notebook seems to be such an expenditure, it does the same thing so why spend the extra money? Maybe if we began to regard objects with more permanence we would spend more on singular objects but less overall because we wouldn’t already be anticipating their loss and then their replacement. 

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