Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cradle to Cradle part 05

The other part of upcycling involves technological waste and this seems to me to be much more challenging. The key term used here is that of a "product of service." Thus you don't buy a car or shoes or computer, you lease them through their useful lives, and when you are finished the manufacturer reclaims them and disassembles them for re-use as a high end product.

The challenges to accomplish this are mind-boggling. Here the authors blithely assume that it will be cheaper to re-use materials rather then using virgin materials. In the current world, this is very often not the case. Plastics can be re-cycled, but it is generally not economic to do so. Re-cycling glass is much cheaper. The authors speak of the challenges of smelting steel and keeping other metals and materials out so that it does not have to be re-used for a "lesser" purpose, having lost some of its integrity.

So designing products and product distribution in such a way that makes them inexpensively reclaimable, reusable... forever, is their goal. Given the seemingly infinite complexity of the natural world and our shallow grasp of it, designing an economic/manufacturing/distribution system to match it would appear hopeless.

When I look at the recycling bins and what people through into them with all the best intentions, but little willingness to simply read and grasp the instrcutions written on the bins, I despair.

Not that we shouldn't try.

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