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This is a book that analyzes the current state of recycling and our system of garbage and finds it wanting.
The book bursts open the constricted set of self defeating procedures that have come to be known as diversion and recycling and shows you how a civilized society would deal with its excesses. This book shows you how a new definition of recycling can become exciting again – how it can be taken away from the garbage industry and joined once again to the environmental movement, where it belongs.
You are part of a huge population on a finite but wonderfully endowed planet. Your society makes all kinds of high-tech products such as computers, rocketships, dangerous but necessary chemicals, radioactive mixtures, medicines, new biological life forms, as well as millions of tons of ordinary products like clothing, buildings, furniture, books, machine tools, cellphones, musical instruments, guns, and thousands and thousands more. These products are used and they deteriorate, or they are no longer wanted by their owners. The owners need to move these products on so that they can obtain newer or better replacements. What scheme would you design to handle all those excess products?
Let’s agree you realize quite well how foolish it is to leave these dangerous and toxic materials just littering your beautiful, finite planet. And you also realize that the raw materials for making all these products are getting scarce and expensive, the volume of demand is increasing without limit, and just finding or growing them is causing havoc on the planet.
Would you recommend that you dig a big hole in the ground and just continually throw this river of valuable products in that big pit? Or would you consider that a form of insanity? (A clue: insanity gets my vote!).
Or would you put your scientists, engineers and technologists to work designing ways to make the maximum use of every unwanted product? Would you repair and upgrade them? Would you insist that the products be made in such a way that they lend themselves to perpetual upgrade and reuse? Would you capture and convert all the component raw materials into new products? Would you try to capture the highest function of high-tech, complex products so as to conserve all the time and energy that went into creating their complexity?
Of course you would! Anything less is insane, irresponsible, irrational and wasteful – and unworthy of human beings.
Then why are we following the path of irresponsibility and insanity today? Why do we allow the garbage industry to impose a wasteful, irrational program on the rest of us? And why are we silent and complicit in the destruction of our planet?
This book explains that we started with garbage tens of thousands of years ago, when the world was much simpler, and we have never been willing to change to a rational plan. It explains in detail, what a rational plan would look like, how it can be implemented and what the social obstacles are that have so far prevented us from getting there. Like all radical, but necessary social change, rational management of society’s excess products goes up against an entrenched industry that has learned how to make money by milking the status quo, no matter how destructive that is. And they use that money to keep the waste flowing and the application of intelligence at bay.
Here are some ideas you may not have encountered before:
· First, why is the garbage industry in charge of recycling, in a process called diversion, or curbside collection? Does it seem sort of obvious that ideal recycling should someday reuse – well everything? But think! If there is one industry that would be put out of business if everything were reused, it’s the garbage industry. So why do we allow them to control, and keep a lid on, even the inadequate forms of recycling we have tried to create?
· Second, where is the real value in the goods we use? If you break down a computer into a dollar’s worth of glass, two dollars’ worth of plastic, three dollars’ worth of steel and four dollars’ worth of copper, is a computer only worth ten dollars? Then why does it sell for $2000? Or is there something else (I call it “function”) which makes any constructed article valuable? What is the value of a human being who could be disassembled into three dollars worth of simple chemicals? If a bottle is made from five cents worth of glass but sells new for $1.35, where does the missing value come from? So why would anyone try to recycle articles of commerce by ignoring the valuable functions and just recycling the valueless materials of which they are composed? Wouldn’t it be better to recycle a bottle by recycling ALL of its value – by refilling it?
· Third, if function is the most important part of an item needing recycling, couldn’t that apply to practically anything? How about industrial chemicals? Radioactive nuclei? Mercury? Arsenic? All electronic equipment? Don’t they all have functions? (If not, why would they be made?) Are they all completely recyclable just like bottles?
The answer is “Yes!” See how it works in the pages of Getting to Zero Waste . And continue reading at the Zero Waste Institute page.
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