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.: April 2007 --> Waste is a design flaw

Waste is a design flaw

» Fortune: The end of Garbage.

They want industry to mimic biology, where one species' excrement is another's food. "We're not talking here about eliminating waste," [William] McDonough explains. "We're talking about eliminating the entire concept of waste."
This utopian vision is a long way off. But the changing economics of waste disposal, technical advances, and grass-roots activism - along with the feverish desire of big companies to appear green - are bringing it closer than you might think.

 [ 04.19.07 ]


William McDonough spoke at HP about two years ago. He drew a packed crowd and received a long standing ovation at his talk. What was so interesting was that his talk about design appealed not only to those interested in sustainability (about half of those present), but to a broad spectrum of designers and engineers. Yes, the things he proposes are good for the environment and people, but they also just make good design sense.

Although the Fortune article talks largely about recycling, the real economic benefits start when there is nothing to recycle.

Most businesses look something like this:


So inputs are time, materials, money. Outputs are products and waste (including pollution). Since matter can be neither created nor destroyed, the creation of waste means that inputs (time, money, materials) were used to create that waste. So waste is simply inefficiency in a business - getting less return on investment. Want to be more profitable? Then don't use inputs to create waste.

pb had a discussion here -

about conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste (a la Thorstein Veblen) that makes me think there is always going to be some profit to be made by creating things that are meant to be consumed casually and deliberately and then thrown away.



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