Unmaking waste

Authored by: Robert Crocker

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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Modern consumerism is based upon the individual’s ongoing quest for an idealised good life, a better life promised through the enjoyment of the ‘best’ and ‘latest’ in consumer goods. This mental perfectionism requires the frequent upgrading of objects and environments and the abandonment of what seems old, imperfect or well used. Waste is thus continuously produced, and in ever larger volumes, to make way for the new. Waste-making on a global scale is supported by standard economics, government policy and business practice, which routinely externalise the environmental costs of this wasting of resources. Since the production of consumer goods now involves such limited responsibility for the waste that is generated, and the waste of over half the world’s population is not formally managed or disposed of, much of this waste becomes pollution. This chapter argues that while governments and businesses need to play their part in creating a ‘circular economy’ where resources are more highly valued and waste is minimised, to ‘unmake waste’ on this scale requires designers to both understand how and why unnecessary waste is created in the first place. The purpose of ‘unmaking waste’ is thus to create products that are more durable, can be used for longer periods and can be remade, or turned into other products at the end of their lives. This reconfiguration of design and manufacturing will give material form to the circular economy, one where there is limited waste, and where every product can be safely reused or remade into another, and where all waste is understood as a ‘misallocated’ resource.

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