Triangles part 2 • 12 July 2010 • The SnowBlog
Triangles part 2
After the downer of the last post, let me make it up to you slightly. As you may know, I like clever design. I like practical clever design especially. But I think I like the idea of C2C design best of all. In case you don't know, there's an idea called Cradle To Crade (as contrasted with conventional design which is cradle-to-grave - or mine-to-landfill if you prefer). C2C thinking involves making products out of materials that can be reused forever more. The idea separates the world into two cycles, the Biological and the Technical. An apple is biological. You throw whatever you don't eat on the ground and it gets perfectly recycled (provided we don't, say, seal it in a plastic bin bag). A technical product is pretty much anything we make or anything that the biological world can't process back down to raw materials. The technical cycle needs to work the same way as the biological cycle. We need to be able to pull our products apart and separate out the raw materials to a level of purity that's indistinguishable from what we started with. Biologicals get returned to the earth, technical materials are turned back into raw ingredients. Currently we're very good at mixing plastics or metals together and then bonding them to something else. Just getting the labels off packaging can be tricky because at the moment no one seems much bothered what happens to those materials once they're thrown away. But if they were the raw ingredients for the next cycle of manufacturing there'd be enormous incentive to make everything reclaimable. The founders of Cradle To Cradle, McDonough and Braungart, wrote a book about their ideas. It wouldn't be an easy thing to implement, but sooner or later it'll be cheaper for manufacturers to get their raw plastics from the piles of plastic refuse on all sides than to dig more oil out of the ground to make fresh plastic. Likewise with rubber and glass and concrete and steel. If all our industries are based on digging stuff out of the ground and then burying it a little later, we'll run out of planet. But if we make things so that they can be taken apart and made into something else - indefinitely - our way of life could actually look very similar to how it is right now, only it would be sustainable. Closed biological and technical cycles, replenishing themselves forever - new products every year without using anything up - just add energy and ingenuity.