Ever thought about why waste accumulates?
Every product we use has an expiry date. If we think about it a little more, we realize that most products are designed to expire and not be utilized after its’ lifetime period, and not designed to be recycled in whole or in parts. Most of the products we consume today are mass produced and of low quality, made from cheap raw materials and processed with low cost techniques. Design today tries to create a universal or “one-size-fits-all” solution, when there is a clear contextual difference in use from region to region as well. If the conception of the product itself begins with a non-sustainable ending (and a lifetime), it automatically indicates that these products have nowhere to go, and are going to result in non-biodegradable piles of waste.
Going further into the materiality of the products, we can see that each of them have a biological component and a technological component, part of their own cycles. Ideally, the biological component of the product after use should enter back into the cycle, (as a raw material, for example) or back into the earth to create a sustainable loop, and the same goes for the technological cycle as well. Most products however are designed in such a way that these two components overlap, and cannot be segregated into their basic components, there by cutting off the feedback mechanism. This is what we get as “waste”.
Waste accumulation is not just the physical accumulation of products, but also the accumulation of toxins. If in the food cycle, the toxins begin to enter in the bottom strata, then they continue to accumulate as we climb higher in the food cycle, and also increase in quantity through the process of biomagnification. The products we use as well, due to their inferior quality, release toxins into the atmosphere, polluting the air as well.
Finally, a significant contribution to waste accumulation is consumer attitudes and values. Given the “convenient” and easy lifestyle most people seek today, we would rather just buy a new product rather than fix and reuse the old one and even more surprising is the fact that it is often more economical to do that. The concept of the three R’s- reuse, reduce and recycle is not common, and the products often have a cradle-to-grave life, with companies even giving a “warranty” for most of the technological ones. What happens to the damaged product? Shipping the waste from one country to another, or burying them in landfills is only a temporary solution, and not ecologically sensitive at all. Unless the consumerist attitudes and design values change from this point forward, we are only going to generate bigger piles of waste that cause further degradation to all facets of our environment.