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Design for Disassembly

Published in Lakehead University’s campus newspaper The Argus on October 11, 2004

In the First Industrial Revolution businesspeople and engineers designed products to be cheap and look nice so that the masses could have access to them. However, what happens to these products (cars, computers, toys, clothes, etc) after we are finished with them? Well, they are sent to the landfills or incinerated. Then industry goes out to look for new resources to make more cheap and pretty products.
We all know that waste is strangling our system; just look at Toronto’s situation. Whether we are talking about solid waste, pollution, water or soil contamination or highly toxic nuclear waste; waste is strangling our system.
The official proposals for the waste management are reduce the waste, reuse the materials, recycle the products, refuse to buy them and regulate the toxins. However good-willed this strategy is, it does not address the inherent problem of our system: our system creates waste.
The Next Industrial Revolution is geared to eliminating the concept of waste. Yes, eliminate the very concept of waste by design. Where in nature do we find waste? Nature has no concept of waste; in nature waste equals food for another organism. Why not design our system do the same and cycle nutrients either for the natural world (biological nutrients) or for the world of human industry (technical nutrients)?
Imagine this: Factories in Thunder Bay manufacture wind turbines and ship them everywhere for deployment as clean energy producers. Then the molecules of these wind turbines come back to the factories after their 20 – 30 year lifespan. Yes, I mean design these wind turbines for disassembly so they constantly come back to the city.
What are the advantages? Well, firstly, if these machines were designed to come apart then industry would get new high quality resources for new wind turbines. Therefore we could stop the mining of the Earth for new material. Secondly, all the materials would be totally safe for children of all species because why would we want to circulate materials that were toxic? Thirdly, the workers in these Thunder Bay factories would have endless work because every time these turbines come back to the city their molecules need to be taken apart intelligently and effectively and then rebuilt into new technical nutrient wind turbines.
To date, industry has created technical nutrient carpets (Shaw, Honeywell, BASF), polyester (Victor Innovatex), window shades (MechoShade), and the 2002 treeless book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is itself the first technical nutrient designed for disassembly and infinite up-cycling.

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