Waste-Free Production: Cradle to Cradle

Corporate Sustainability
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Stefka Nenkova
Student (University), Netherlands

Waste-Free Production: Cradle to Cradle

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. 3840.
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.


Paramathmuni srinivas Kumar

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