Advisory board: Stop the throw-away society

More and more products end up as waste after only a short time. The desire to produce and sell as much as possible – for example clothing, furniture, and electronics – leads to low quality and short product lifespans. This is at the expense of working conditions, the climate, and the environment. If we want to make our economy sustainable, this must be stopped. In its advisory report Phasing Out the Throw-Away Society, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) calls on the Dutch government to take the necessary action. The report was presented to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Vivianne Heijnen, the day before Black Friday.

The quality and price of products are too low

The production of clothing, furniture, and consumer electronics involves cutting costs to the maximum extent possible, thus also cutting down on quality. The result is products that don’t last very long. The negative effects involved are also not factored into the price. This leads to depletion of scarce raw materials, and to poor working conditions in, for example, the textile industry in Asia and mining in Africa. It also has negative effects on the climate, biodiversity, and the environment. 

Consumers are enticed to buy, and to quickly throw away 

A low price and low quality of clothes, for example, leads to them being thrown away; this is referred to as ‘fast fashion’. But ‘fast furniture’ and single-use electronics are also booming. Consumers lack the necessary information for making deliberate, sustainable choices from the overall range of products available. They are also constantly enticed – for instance by rock-bottom offers – to purchase throw-away products.

Start phasing out the throw-away society right now 

The Rli advocates tackling the problem along several tracks simultaneously. The Dutch government should push within Europe for stringent requirements as regards product sustainability, lifespan, and reparability. Legislation – at both EU and national level – must be introduced leading to ‘truer’ pricing, as well as more information for consumers about the sustainability of products. The Rli also proposes introducing a lifespan and repair label, with information about the expected useful life and reparability of products. Among other things, it also recommends discouraging rock-bottom offers and advertisements for throw-away products. 

Promote repair, reuse, and recycling

The Rli believes that the government should start striving, as soon as possible, for longer product life by promoting repair and reuse. This can be done by ensuring that a fully-fledged second-hand market develops, and that repairing broken products becomes normal and affordable. The first step would be to eliminate the VAT on repairs. Producers, in turn, must be made more responsible for recycling their products at the end of their lifespan. This should be arranged in close consultation with the municipalities, which also have an important role to play in this regard.

Note to editors

To request interviews, please contact Rli communications adviser Anneke Verschoor at or on +31 (0)6 15359540.
For more information about the advisory report, please contact the project leader, Bas Waterhout, at, or on +31 (0)6 21178802.

The advisory report will be available for download at from 3 p.m. on 24 November 2023.

Follow us on LinkedIn and X @raadrli and join the conversation using #duurzaamheid | #wegwerpmaatschappij.