[LINK] throw-away culture

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Mon Jan 22 07:15:44 AEDT 2007

Very interesting article about designing for sustainable use.  I have  
said before on link that one answer to the land-fill problem is to  
put a disposal tax on things that need disposing.  It seems it's  
already happening and will increase.

Designing things - appliances that last - needs a different economic  
approach - along the lines of a service rather than a product.

 From issue 2585 of New Scientist magazine, 04 January 2007, page 31-35
Better by design: battling the throwaway culture (requires  
subscription to read on-line)

> Americans use and throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour.  
> The British produce enough garbage to fill the Albert Hall every 2  
> hours. According to the authors of Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken,  
> Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, only 1 per cent of all materials  
> flowing through the US economy ends up in products still being used  
> six months after manufacture. The waste entailed in our fleeting  
> affairs with consumer durables is colossal.

> Take the average domestic power tool. However much DIY we plan on  
> doing, the truth is we throw these away after using them, on  
> average, for just 10 minutes. Most will serve "conscience time",  
> gathering dust on a shelf in the garage, but the end is inevitable:  
> thousands of years mouldering underground. A power tool consumes  
> many times its own weight of resources in its design, manufacture,  
> packaging, transportation and disposal, all for a shorter active  
> lifespan than that of the adult mayfly.

> On the day you read this the same volume of trade will take place  
> as occurred in the whole of 1949. We now make as many phone calls  
> in a day as were made in the whole of 1983. The information age was  
> supposed to lighten our economies and reduce our impact on the  
> environment, but in fact the reverse seems to be happening. We have  
> simply added information technology to the industrial era and  
> speeded up the developed world's metabolism, Thackara argues.
> Once you grasp that, the cure is hardly rocket science: minimise  
> waste and energy use, stop moving stuff around so much and use  
> people more. Achieving this is not so easy, however. Growing  
> numbers of people may be choosing to opt out by downsizing or  
> embracing the ideology of the "slow movement", which seeks to  
> reverse the frenetic pace of living, but a return to pre-industrial  
> ways will never be a global solution. "We cannot stop tech,"  
> Thackara says, "and there's no reason why we should. It's useful.  
> But we need to change the innovation agenda in such a way that  
> people come before tech."

> Consumer durables will increasingly be sold with plans already in  
> place for their disposal - electronic goods will be designed to be  
> recyclable, with the extra cost added onto the retail price as  
> prepayment

> Japan is WEEEcycling
> In 2001, a critical shortage of landfill sites forced the Japanese  
> government to pass a law adding the cost of recycling home  
> appliances to the retail price. This gave manufacturers guaranteed  
> revenue to invest in recycling plants. In 2004, 540,000 Sony  
> televisions were recycled at the company's 15 recycling centres.  
> With over 80 per cent of Japan's TVs now being recycled, the  
> initiative has easily outperformed government targets.
> Another bill passed in the same year enshrines the principles of  
> "reduce, reuse and recycle" for a whole swathe of consumer items.  
> Computer manufacturers, for example, are now obliged to take back  
> and recycle obsolete computers - users can have them collected or  
> drop them off at post offices. A mark stamped on the computer  
> indicates that recycling costs have been prepaid; otherwise  
> consumers foot the bill. In 2004, Toshiba took back 5343 desktop  
> PCs and 9568 laptops.
> Worldwide, discarded computers, mobile phones and electronic  
> gadgets now account for 5 per cent of waste, according to the UN  
> Environment Programme. In the US, between 14 and 20 million PCs are  
> dumped each year. Electrical waste is the fastest-growing category  
> in Europe, with the UK alone producing 1 million tonnes a year.
> The European Union has not been nearly as successful as Japan at  
> dealing with the problem, though. In 2003 its directive on the  
> recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)  
> became law, requiring producers in member countries to take  
> responsibility for recycling and waste management, and for  
> retailers to offer take-back services. However, member states have  
> dragged their feet in implementing the directive, and this July the  
> UK will become the last major EU country to comply.
> In the meantime, Japanese companies are starting to profit from  
> having had to think carefully about designing more sustainable  
> products, and are now exporting their expertise around the world  
> through their subsidiaries. In 2005 Matsushita, owner of Panasonic,  
> established Ecology Net Europe in Germany, a subsidiary aimed at  
> capitalising on Europe's move to WEEE recycling. It sends employees  
> to European recycling companies to advise on the feasibility and  
> ease of disassembling various electrical appliances. Back in Japan,  
> Hitachi and Toshiba are developing "design for disassembly"  
> software to help create recyclable products, and Sharp has even  
> achieved automated disassembly for some basic items, including  
> battery chargers.

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
Ph: +39 06 855 4294  M: +39 3342707610
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.
                           -- Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Analog, Apr 1961

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