Waste Cancer

As for the physical space, the more we consume in the daily life and during industrial production, the more space is being occupied with waste. Because of the Cradle to Grave system is almost fully embedded into every joint of the social body. We are producing 200-250g of waste per person per day, with a total of 1.2 to 1.5 billion kilograms per day. So the space left for us is shrinking everyday on earth.

Meanwhile, with the accumulation of waste, toxic substances are also accumulating. As a kind of invisible waste, toxic waste materials can contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, and air which causes more problems for humans, other species, and ecosystems.

And last, people has a long time formed common consciousness that everything is designed for human beings to consume and throw away. People won’t have a thought that some part of the product may be recycled. And in some country, certain amount of waste will be seen as a symbol of social status. For example, in China, when people get married, they are supposed to invite friends to dinner. If there are more dishes than the amount that can be eaten by all the guest, the family of the newly-wed will be taken as wealthy and hospitality.

Under these circumstances, the waste is just like cancer, it starts to erode our living space and we can hardly find a treatment that can make all the influence go backwards. This metaphor may sound very negative but as the case in Cradle to Cradle chapter4, China had such a “sustainable system” in ancient times. Even in my childhood, my grandparents ran their little farm in this way, but this kind of “following the law of nature” way of agriculture is disappearing during the very short 20 years which is largely influenced by the blind pursue for GDP growth.


McDonough, William, and Michael Braggart. 2009. Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. London: Vintage. -Chapter 01. A question of design(pg.17-44) and 04. Waste equals food(pg.92-117).

Pierre Bélanger. “Airspace: The Economies & Ecologies of Landfilling in Michigan.” Trash. Ed. John Knechtel. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006.(pg.132-155)


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