Compostable Materials - A Sustainable Replacement Of Petroleum Based Packaging?
1.3 The Creation Of Waste
- The Shift From Organic To Mechanical Production -
Earth operates in a system where there is no such thing as waste. That is why the environment and every living thing in it has been able to grow and prosper for million of years. The biological system is cyclical; this means that when something dies it becomes nutrients for something or someone else. As William McDonough and Michael Braggarts, authors of the book Cradle to Cradle put it,“Waste equals food”.(1) The Gaia Theory teaches us that we are part of the environment, not separated from it. The biological functions of the planet sustain us, there is no nature and then us, we are a part of nature.(2)
Humans like every other species, have always struggled to maintain “enough” food and other necessary supplies to be able to survive. Abundance from nature allows life to prosper and scarcity from it can lead to starvation and death. All living things are dependent on the Earths support system. When the Industrial Revolution came about in the Eighteenth Century humans could, for the first time, both tame and control nature in a way and scale that it had never done before.(3) As a correlation this resulted in humans being able to take huge amounts of raw materials from the crust of the Earth to synthesis, concentrate and alter it. More could be produced and at a much faster rate then ever before. The Earth’s resources were considered endless and natures abundance untouchable. Moreover, it was considered as the rights and the duties of humans to “shape nature to better ends”.(4)
The perception of human domination over nature had long before the Industrial Revolution been the ruling mindset among the biggest influencers in Science, Economy and Religion particularly in the Western society. The British Philosopher, Scientist and Jurist Francis Becon, (1561-1626) known as the father of the Empiricism philosophy, was a strong spokesman of a mechanical worldview.(5) He saw nature as bound to service humans; “Nature being known, it may be mastered, managed, and used in the Services of human Life”.(6)
A shift from an organic to mechanical production took place in the arena of the Industrial Revolution and with it emerged a linear system of production outside the natural, cyclic ecosystem. With the help of the new machines and new materials it allowed the industries to design products for the masses at a much faster pace. In turn there was little to no concern or knowledge of it’s “after life” and during this process the concept of waste was created.
The Industrial Revolution wasn’t planned but it wasn’t without a motive. According to McDonough and Braungart, it was “driven by the human desire by acquisition of capital”. The Industrial Revolution was at the bottom an economical revolution”.(7) They explain that the narrowed focus on economic growth left little to no concern of any other vital concerns.
Today the linear production of goods dominate the modern processes of manufacturing. We still cling to outdated and archaic mental models that used to lay out the foundation for the Industrial Revolution, and so do our designs. As we shall see this has lead to significant drawbacks, particularly in those concerned with the ecological impacts as well as that of human health.