“Always do what's right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” - Mark Twain

Aquinas College

Waste

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Galveston Bay, Texas
Photo Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 2005, Earl Nottingham

In a sustainable world, the concept of waste will take on an entirely different meaning. Nature operates in a system where the needs for millions of species are met without producing any waste because unused or excreted materials become food for other organisms. Waste = Food. If industrial processes were designed to mimic processes found in the natural world, there would be no waste.

In a sustainable business, products are designed and manufactured to be easily disassembled after their useful life. All material inputs for product outputs are classified as either technical or biological nutrients. Biological nutrients are those materials that can be safely returned back to the earth through composting or other decomposition processes. Materials that cannot safely be returned to the earth are kept in closed loop cycles and are classified as technical nutrients. At the end of a product's useful life, the manufacturer takes their products back and utilizes the recovered technical nutrients to re-manufacture the product. Cradle to Cradle. There is no waste.

Since waste is an enormous liability and expense for individuals, business, and society, the concept must be eliminated in the initial design stages to create truly sustainable products.

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Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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