Waste-Free Production: Cradle to Cradle

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Waste-Free Production: Cradle to Cradle
Stefka Nenkova, Student (University), Netherlands, Premium Member
In order to combat climate change, saving production resources and returning old products to a useful life sound like very good ideas. But they are tough to accomplish in practice.

The Cradle to Cradle concept, also referred as C2C, was first introduced by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and later popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book “Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the way we make things” in 2002.

Walter Stahel began a program aiming to “return products to useful lives” (Lovins, 2008). Stahel found that “75 percent of industrial energy use was due to the mining or production of basic materials like steel and cement, while only about 25 percent was used to make the materials into finished goods like machines or buildings” (Lovins, 2008). Furthermore, regarding human labour he discovered a converse relationship: “three times as much labor was used to convert materials into higher value-added products as in the original mining” (Lovins, 2008). Stahel then suggested that businesses involving reconditioning of old equipment should be promoted in order to substitute energy for labour (Lovins, 2008). Stahel introduced five pillars of a new sustainability movement:
  • CONSERVATION OF NATURE AS THE UNDERPINNING OF A PROSPEROUS ECONOMY. This includes the need to preserve intact ecosystems as the basis of all life-support systems.
  • THE NEED TO PRESERVE INDIVIDUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY THAT MAY BE JEOPARDIZED BY ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES. This involves limiting toxicity and pollution by such things as heavy metals and endocrine disruptors.
  • SOCIAL ECOLOGY. This includes “peace and human rights, dignity and democracy, employment and social integration, security and safety, the constructive integration of female and male attitudes”.
  • CULTURAL ECOLOGY. This involves how different cultures view the concept of sustainability and how to achieve it.

According to Stahel, “in today’s world, the recipe for prosperity is to encourage the use of people and to penalize the use of resources” (Lovins, 2008).

Essentially Cradle to Cradle is a framework, which seeks to create production techniques that are not simply efficient but are waste free (The Dictionary of Sustainable Management). It entails the idea that all output and input materials could be seen as technological and biological nutrients and thus can be either 1) recycled or reused with no loss of quality (technical nutrients), or 2) composed or consumed (biological nutrients). The main focus of the concept is not being less bad to the environment but doing more good and producing no pollution at all.

The eco-efficiency approach involves an increase in the economic output together with a decrease in the production processes impact on the environment (Bollinger et al, 2007). The eco-effectiveness approach involves eliminating outputs that are harmful to the environment. Thus the main difference is that if eco-efficiency is doing things the right way, then eco-effectiveness is doing things right (Abukhader, 2008).

  • WASTE EQUALS FOOD – All outputs continue as inputs in another system.
  • CURRENT SOLAR INCOME – Using only “green” energy (wind, solar and water power).
  • CELEBRATE DIVERSITY – Finding new ways to use materials through innovation.

Practical Obstructions in Implementing C2C into the supply chain of an organization (Timmermans, 2010)
  1. Non-cooperating partners
  2. No alternative raw materials
  3. Recycling markets availability
  4. Limited recycling ability of materials
  5. Expertise and knowledge
  6. Technological limitations
⇒ Let's discuss any other barriers to implementing C2C and most of all: What ways do you see to overcome them?

Lovins, L. Hunter (2008) “Rethinking production” in State of the World 2008, pp. 38–40.
The Dictionary of Sustainable Management. (n.d.). Retrieved 2017, from www.sustainabilitydictionary.com/cradle-to-cradle/
Bollinger, A. Braungart, M. & McDonough, W. (2007), “Cradle-to-Cradle Design: Creating Healthy Emissions – A Strategy for Eco-effective Product and System Design”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 15, 1337-1348
Abukhader, S.M. (2008), “Eco-efficiency in the Era of Electronic Commerce – Should ‘Eco-Effectiveness’ Approach be Adopted”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 16. no. 7, 801-808
Timmermans, E. (2010) “Global Greening : Cradle to Cradle”, Tilburg University Library.

Wisdom and Association with the Wise
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
To mentioned barrier #5 (Experience and knowledge) we might add: "and wisdom". The lack of availability of effective wisdom in the form of a green, sustainable world view, tips for the improvement on the process and traps to avoid in cradle to cradle design.
To make any available wisdom available to the context, appropriate preparation is needed in order for the wisdom to be effective in its implementation. Otherwise, lack of management strategy and lack of association with the wise may be other barriers.

Cradle to Cradle: Who is Leading in the Market?
Dr zahra gheidar, Consultant, Iran, Member
I think the most and important barrier in this issue is the producer. We should ask who is leader in the market? Who is leading the demand? Is the producer giving direction to market? Or is it the consumer perhaps? We know the vital point in the trade is profit. I think it is the time for a green demand….

Don't Manufacture a New Product as a Replacement for an Old One Simply Because it Appears More Efficient
Ivan Kohlinsky, Management Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
Who calculates the total emissions, material usage, etc. etc. of manufacturing a new replacement product? That should be compared to continued use of the 'old' one.
For example if one has a B rated fridge, dispose of it and purchases a newly manufactured A rated fridge (same for virtually everything) then probably this new one creates more emissions, wasted material and other resources than 20 years using the old one!
So the original author's idea of retaining the 'old' would have been the best solution for ecosystems, climate change effects etc. Rather than believing constant 'new product' marketing.

Climate Change & Recycling
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
The key factor that seems to be missing in respect of enabling the model is the 'political' factor. If the vested interests of industry-politics deny, dissemble or discount climate change and the need for re-cycling, this is a powerful anti-force, which as we have seen is taking a lot of 'decreasing'.
It is unlikely that the required changes can be made without adding the power of democratic voices demanding it. Political, Economic and Social change comes because the voice of increasing numbers of 'the people' demand it. Technological change comes because people accept it without necessarily knowing about the 'iceberg of cost' the hidden production-ecological-social costs, particularly to poor countries.
There is some increasing awareness, but I suggest that planting the model shown requires further tilling of the ground before it can fully take root and become part of a new paradigm, the key factor is, therefore, knowledge, the basis of democracy and democratic change.

Cradle to Cradle Concept for Waste-Free Production:
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
@Maurice Hogarth: I fully agree with your analysis that more public awareness is needed in order to get more political attention. Hopefully this discussion here will contribute to increasing environmental awareness. I invite members to come with further thoughts on how this might be accomplished.

Our Politico Economic Culture Engenders a Consumptive Attitude
Ivan Kohlinsky, Management Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
Our current politico economic culture stimulates a consumptive attitude. In truth, if products were manufactured on a philosophy of reliability (and robustness) as well as 'repairability' (and maybe now with modern technology - updatability / compatibility), then there would be less requirement to 'dispose' of items. This of course could be expected to add to the initial cost, but reduce a consumer's long term cost, by eliminating continual replacement etc.
Not a very good example perhaps, but we used to have a microwave with a flap in the top that could be unscrewed for bulb replacement. In later models when the bulb fails, the whole microwave has to be taken apart - a workshop job due to safety issues. The extra flap cost extra in production etc. but…
A desire for a substantially growing GDP and the avoidance of waste may be intertwined.
I remember a book called 'Limits to Growth' in the 1970s…

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