Throwaway Economy Headed for Junk Heap of History

Avoid pollution and waste entirely.


| July 12, 2012



Landfill

Now is the time to reduce waste and reuse as much as possible.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/LASSEDESIGNEN

The following article is posted with permission from the Earth Policy Institute.

In their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart conclude that waste and pollution are to be avoided entirely. Pollution, says McDonough, is a symbol of design failure.  

The challenge is to re-evaluate the materials we consume and the way we manufacture products so as to cut down on waste. Restructuring the transportation system has a huge potential for reducing materials use as light rail and buses replace cars. For example, 60 cars, weighing a total of 110 tons, can be replaced by one 12-ton bus, reducing material use 89 percent.  

Savings from replacing a car with a bike are even more impressive. Urban planner Richard Register recounts meeting a bicycle-activist friend wearing a T-shirt that said, I just lost 3,500 pounds. Ask me how. When queried, he said he had sold his car. Replacing a 3,500-pound car with a 22-pound bicycle obviously reduces fuel use dramatically, but it also reduces materials use by 99 percent, indirectly saving still more energy.  

Cutting the use of virgin raw materials begins with recycling steel, the use of which dwarfs that of all other metals combined. In the United States, virtually all cars are recycled. They are simply too valuable to be left to rust in out-of-the-way junkyards. With the number of cars scrapped now exceeding new cars sold, the U.S. automobile sector actually has a steel surplus that can be used elsewhere in the economy.  

The U.S. recycling rate for household appliances is estimated at 90 percent. For steel cans it is 65 percent. For construction steel, the figures are 98 percent for steel beams and girders but only 65 percent for reinforcement steel.  





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