Reverse Material Flows


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Slides I used to help frame a conversation about recycling, materials flows, and Cradle to Cradle at the Sustainable Brands '09 UnConference.

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Reverse Material Flows

  1. 1. We have built an incredibly efficient pipeline for creating waste from natural resources. Materials Manf. Use Disposal Flowrate Time How can we re-imagine this system to… • Reduce the raw materials to trash throughput? Move from a short, fat pipeline to a narrower and more complex one • Use resources more efficiently? • Maintain economic and consumer value? Adam Menter -
  2. 2. Here’s a better pipeline. Materials Manufacture Use Disposal Repair Reuse Remanufacture Reclaim / Upcycle Recycle / Downcycle Cradle to Cradle Some thought starters… • Our economy is fundamentally flawed because these reverse supply chains are broken. • Generally, the longer an arrow has to travel, the more work and complexity involved. • Each of us has a lot of control over the use phase: 1) What we do with products at the ‘end of life’, 2) What ‘new’ products we choose to bring into our lives • Resources renew slowly, our Manufacturing and Use cycles are much faster. These cycles are driven by both corporate earnings expectations and consumer demand. • It’s not corporations that are pushing us to consume more. We’re asking for it. It’s our machine.
  3. 3. Do your part to promote Lake Economies. Materials Manufacture Use Disposal Repair Reuse Remanufacture Reclaim / Upcycle Recycle / Downcycle Cradle to Cradle Some thought starters… • In river economies, there is a straight path from raw materials to disposal. In lake economies, we create eddies in these flows based on how we use and re-use our products (coined by Walter Stahel) • You have direct control of the things you bring into your life, how you care for those things, and how you dispose of them. The way you use items can prevent unnecessary landfill and over-production. • Buying and selling used items keeps value in your community and supports local living economies. • Hiring repairmen and handymen creates employment and keeps valuable skills/trades alive. • Repairing and caring for your things is emotionally rewarding. What items get better with age?
  4. 4. Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every.
  5. 5. Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
  6. 6. Depicts 38,000 shipping containers, the number of containers processed through American ports every twelve hours.
  7. 7. Cradle to Cradle Waste = Food How many books have made Does Herman Miller have a Tyvek is C2C certified. Has their way back into the system taking back the C2C gold DuPont ever made new Tyvek industrial nutrients flow? Mirra chairs? Why would they? from post-consumer Tyvek? Some thought starters… • C2C is a closed, proprietary standard controlled by MBDC. • Cradle to Cradle, while a sexy and compelling idea, is actually very big step – both technically and behaviorally. There are plenty of other sources of low-hanging fruit. • C2C is seductive because it theorizes that we can continue to have a ravenously consumptive economy by simply swapping out materials on the back-end. • “Assigning a wish” to a C2C certified product is not enough. You need to understand consumers’ disposal behavior and create a real reverse supply chain if possible.
  8. 8. Terracycle Reclaiming non-recyclable waste Rain barrels from old wine A backpack from CapriSun Plant food bottled in old Pepsi barrels. pouches. bottles. Some thought starters… • Is there such a thing as garbage? It doesn’t exist in nature. • Why not re-use waste as-is without melting it down? What value can the existing form provide? • How are TerraCycle’s ‘citizen brigades’ influencing how we think about waste disposal? • Does anyone actually want a backpack made out of old Capri-Sun pouches?
  9. 9. Repair your stuff It’s in your hands. iFixIt helps you repair your Community resources like the Give repair the eco-cred it computer and iPod. Bike Kitchen can help. deserves. Some thought starters… • The problem with our consumption patterns isn’t that we love stuff too much, it’s that we don’t love our stuff enough. • Why are so many of our things built cheaply (not durable) AND not built to be reparable? • Why is it so freaking hard to change the battery of your iPod? • Why is repair (and product durability) such an underground aspect of the consumer environmental movement? Why does buying a new Prius get you more eco-cred?
  10. 10. Re-Use & Buy Used Save money, materials, and energy This man is responsible for The 600 ml brown bottle is the Give buying used items the eco- diverting tons of stuff from quot;standard beer reused bottlequot; in cred it deserves. landfills. Brazil. Some thought starters… • Getting rid of stuff you don’t use keeps others from buying new stuff. • Does buying used mean you can’t keep up with current technology?
  11. 11. Remanufacturing Kodak’s ‘disposable’ cameras. Some thought starters… • Collecting the cameras at photo finishers fits seamlessly into behavior patterns. • Wider industry cooperation needed? • Different customer relationships lead to different take-back models (BT forklifts).