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William McDonough Interview
Alex Steffen, 12 May 05

Our industry begs for a massive overhaul, if we are in fact going to build a bright green future. Bill McDonough is perhaps the most famous advocate for a transformation in industrial design. In a new interview, McDonough explains his ideas. It's a terrific, short overview:

You say that recycling, as it's currently practiced, is "downcycling."

What we call recycling is typically the product losing its quality. Paper gets mixed with other papers, re-chlorinated and contaminated with toxic inks. The fiber length gets shorter, allowing more particles to abrade into the air, where they get into your lungs and nasal passages, and cause irritation. And you end up with gray, fuzzy stuff that doesn't really work for you. That's downcycling. ...

Most manufacturers take resources out of the ground and convert them to products that are designed to be thrown away or incinerated within months. We call these "cradle to grave" product flows. Our answer to that is "cradle to cradle" design. Everything is reused—either returned to the soil as nontoxic "biological nutrients" that will biodegrade safely, or returned to industry as "technical nutrients" that can be infinitely recycled. Aluminum is a technical nutrient. It takes tremendous energy to make, but it's easy to recapture and reuse. Since 1880, the human species has made 660 million tons of it. We still know where 440 million tons are today

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Sounds like ZERI thinking.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 12 May 05

I wonder: what's the concern with keeping up consumption to protect jobs? Why not use productivity gains and higher durability of products to reduce the hours we have to work?

Posted by: Ben Hutchings on 13 May 05

People might start thinking?

Posted by: Gyrus on 18 May 05



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