Nature does not know waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is no waste in Nature. Everything is being recycled by various creatures both large and small and our system must be designed in the same way if we want to clean up the Planet and create a world that remains livable.

1219803198381116322trashWe must not just reduce, minimize or avoid waste; we must eliminate, if and where possible, the very concept of waste, by design.

At present, however, obsolescence is designed into almost everything we buy so that we have to throw something away in a year or three and have to buy new because the old cannot be repaired or upgraded. It is the way they keep the constant growth economy going. This constant growth economy, though, is bad for our finances and worse still for the Planet.

There was once a time, not all that long ago, where everything was repairable, often by users employing more or less simple DIY even. Today, more often than not, an appliance cannot even be opened and even if it can be opened repair simply is not possible, not even by a technician or it is prohibitively expensive to do so.

In the German Democratic Republic – the so-called Communist East Germany – in its days and until its dying day repair of almost everything was possible and was done and entire industries were geared to repairing, and not just expensive goods. Everything could be repaired and it was specifically made like this.

Until about around the 1980s this was also the case with many goods – the majority, in fact – in Britain (and elsewhere) and repair shops where everywhere and the costs very reasonable. Now shoe repair places can but glue on new soles and heels. Most have not idea whatsoever, however, as to how to resew a mid-sole back to the upper and such. If they have not got a machine for it it cannot be done, even if the shoes or boots are capable – and that too is rare nowadays – of being repaired.

Repairability and second use – in the case of packaging and such – must be designed in so that waste can become a thing of the past. But our own mindset also creates unnecessary waste when we don't think as to reusing things, such as packaging materials, where possible for other tasks. Our ancestors did have that mindset and not just the poor and we need to reclaim this too.

Total and complete elimination of waste will not, I believe, every be possible but things need to have sustainability designed in and packaging should, wherever possible, be biodegradable and compostable.

For cardboard this means doing away with glossy paint and using vegetable-based inks instead, for instance, and we should also take a leaf out of the book of bygone ages and places such as the GDR, when and where packaging was thus and very minimal and glass bottles and -jars must go back to be refilled, as and where possible.

And we must relearn the way our ancestors thought and consider each and every item of (packaging) waste as a potential for reuse. Food waste should, ideally, not occur and if it does then that food waste should be composted to feed plants or first fed to animals such as chickens and such and, as their waste, go into the compost after.

Other products must be designed in such a way that (1) they last and (2) can be (easily) repaired and upgraded instead of having obsolescence designed in just to make us buy new every couple of years to keep the economy artificially turning, and don't get me started as to the stupid notion for the need of a perpetual growth economy.

Waste reduction to almost elimination level can be designed into products and packaging and packaging waste is one of the biggest problems as far as waste is concerned together with the built-in obsolescence.

The problem is, though, that industry has no intention to change anything and neither do the powers-that-be. It is, thus, up to us to force the needed changes.

© 2014