Monday, October 06, 2008

Cradle to Cradle

An approach suggested by the authors of this book Cradle to Cradle - remaking the way we make things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart. This book is very interesting if a first a bit depressing you get over the state of the world and start to thing possibilities. It basically describes the way (nature American book) the environment manages resources. They call this approach cradle to cradle to express how resources and nutrients are continually recycled endlessly without any loss in quality and to the continued benefit of the ecosystems around them. They describe the human model as cradle to grave, we extract resources and use the resource them bury it in landfill where it cannot be reused or reclaimed. If we recycle, which we rarely do we don't take the time to seperate the materials or cannot because they weren't designed to be seperated. So the materials are recycled into lower quality forms of themselves because of contaimination with other materials. Thus making the recycled material unsatisfactory for use again in the initial product and so what they call downcycling to a lower quality product i.e. a water bottle becomes a speed hump or flower pot.

They suggest that current attempts therefore are not sufficient they are less bad but still ultimately no good because the resources are lost to landfill eventually and more resources then need to be extracted. they propose that poroducts should be designed in such a way that materials can be continually reclaimed at the end of life and reused for the same purpose. Negating the need to extract new materials from the earth and continually cycling those already in use with zero waste.

Its very interesting but in order to be fully realised needs a complete change in the way society and industry things and works. However it has inspired some companies to follow their advice and produce products that enable cradle to cradle lifecycles.

The problem though is one of logistics how can we ensure that these products are reused in the way the company intends. I can't speak for America but the recycling capability in Leicester a large british city is largely out dated, even though Leicester was britians first environmental city? Yes we have different waste collections but for only two types of plastic, paper, glass and I know the metal items are removed magnetically from the other rubbish. But what about the other 7 types of packaging plastic, what about cardboard, and what about plastic consumer goods at the end of life if I take them to the tip they all just go in one big skip labelled electrical.

The recycling infrastructure really needs an overhaul otherwise all the Sustainable Design going on is going to waste.

Your thoughts as usual please.....

1 comment:

Nita said...

You write very well.