Sunday 15 June 2014

The Story of Stuff: "You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely"

There's a big difference between the terms 'reduce', 're-use' and 'recycle':

Why Reuse Trumps Recycling and Reduce Trumps ‘em Both

Every Monday morning I hear the procession of truck engines and hydraulic arms working their way through my neighborhood. One truck comes for my trash, a second for my green waste (lawn clippings and such), and the last picks up my recycling. The trash is eventually buried, the green waste composted, and the recycling, well, recycled. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and all that jazz, but have you ever wondered what happens to all that recycled stuff we throw away?

That’s right – throw away. Just because the bin’s a different color doesn’t change the significance of this wasteful action. One could argue that while recycling has its virtues, it actually goes a long way toward encouraging waste. We throw our recycling in the blue or green bin, and a truck hauls it out of sight and out of mind. We hope that these materials are eventually refashioned into something useful once again, but is the process of recycling itself really green? Sure it’s better than the alternative (burying it), but how green is recycling? I guess it depends. In an attempt to answer this question, let’s take a look at the afterlife of a discarded plastic bottle.

NOW Enterprising Ideas: Why Reuse Trumps Recycling and Reduce Trumps ‘em Both
Re-use trumps recycle | SustainableMags

To some extent they can be reconciled:

The Mesh economy encompasses public and private sector organizations and firms working within the various realms of the sharing economy,[13] the peer economy, the collaborative economy and the circular economy. The shift from defining unused value as waste to defining it as an opportunity to create value from more efficient resource use is the common factor among all mesh economy organizations. This shift surfaces in two primary ways. First are new models for reusing the excess capacity of infrastructure, owned assets and talents available to the wider market through networks, community and technology-enabled platforms.[14] The second approach seeks to redefine waste from something that we throw away to an opportunity for reuse and redistribution, which is a hallmark of the circular economy approach. These two approaches to unused value as a resource emerge in mesh economy models as a commitment to the design, development and distribution of products, services and information that supports sustainable resource use and strong, resilient communities.[15]
Redistribution markets: A system of collaborative consumption is based on used or pre-owned goods being passed on from someone who does not want them to someone who does want them. This is another alternative to the more common 'reduce, reuse, recycle, repair' methods of dealing with waste. In some markets, the goods may be free, as on Freecycle and Kashless. In others, the goods are swapped (as on thredUP and SwapTree) or sold for cash (as on eBay, craigslist, and uSell).

Sharing economy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Futures Forum: Climate Change solutions: "Revealing greater agreement than the pro-growth versus de-growth dichotomy suggests."

In other words, 'recycling' is not as 'cyclical' as the term implies. It is actually very 'linear', because the current manufacturing system still needs the input of large amounts of raw resources:
Futures Forum: The plastics industry is "incredibly supportive of recycling legislation over a more long-term… reduction of disposable culture."

This is pointed out in the ground-breaking film 'The Story of Stuff' - already featured on this blog:
Futures Forum: Recycling plastics in East Devon: meeting in Honiton: report
Futures Forum: The semantics of sustainability: 'sustainable development'... or 'sustainable growth' ... or 'sustained economic growth'... or 'development for sustainability'...

And it addresses several key issues:

The Story of Stuff is a short animated documentary about the lifecycle of material goods. The documentary is critical of excessive consumerism and promotes sustainability.

Filmmaker Annie Leonard wrote and narrated the film... According to the Los Angeles Times as of July 2010, the film had been translated into 15 languages and had been viewed by over 12 million people.[1]

The video divides up the materials economy into a system composed of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

Leonard's thesis, "you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely" is supported throughout the video by statistical data. Although the video itself doesn't give attribution to her information, the producers provide an annotated script that includes footnotes with explanations and sources for some of her assertions:

The Story of Stuff has been subject to public discussion, especially after The New York Times published a front page article about the video on May 10, 2009.[20] Even before The New York Times article, The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook pointed to The Story of Stuff as a successful portrayal of the problems with the consumption cycle,[21] and Greyson (2008) says it is an engaging attempt to communicate circular economics. Ralph Nader called the film "a model of clarity and motivation." John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace, called it a "mega-hit on three levels".

It also attracted the attention of right-wing commentators such as Glenn Beck, who characterized the video as an "anti-capitalist tale that unfortunately has virtually no facts correct."[22] Beck's website used a detailed critique made by Lee Doren of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in his "How the World Works" YouTube channel.

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