Is waste an inevitability?
It's hardly rocket science. Each and every one of us is a consumer to a varying degree and the lifestyles we doggedly pursue inevitably have an impact on the world's finite resources.
As the global population continues to grow year-on-year and developing countries frantically play catch up with Western economies, everyone knows the scarcity of resources is going to become ever more acute.
So why is it that government policy focuses almost entirely on what is happening downstream – by that I mean looking at what we do with waste once it has been generated?
Sure, landfill tax has been great in making us think again about waste disposal; forcing policy makers, industry and local authorities to consider more ecologically sound solutions to the throw-away society. Anaerobic digestion, materials recycling facilities and other developments are important steps towards reassessing our relationship with waste.
But are we not missing a trick? With a global resource crises looming on the horizon, shouldn't we be channelling our energies into designing and developing products and services that eliminate waste in the first place?
Easier said than done you may say. Well, that may well be true but there are movements in this direction. The environmental think tank the Green Alliance, which heads up a ‘designing out waste' consortium that includes 10 leading UK businesses, has been looking at ways to improve the environmental performance of products and services across all stages of the lifecycle.
Back in July 2010, the consortium published a report A pathway to greener products which argued that the Government could and should help businesses to improve the environmental impact of the products they sell.
The Green Alliance is still banging on the door of Government to make this case, arguing that to influence the design of products that become waste makes financial as well as ecological sense. Maybe waste is not as inevitable as we think.Nick Warburton