Life Cycle Thinking: Corporate Responsibility for Products and Packing Past Consumer Purchasing

If you have ever seen those insane photos of albatross chicks that died from being fed plastic by their parents, plastic from those awful floating trash gyres in the oceans (people, wake up, plastic and garbage does not just disappear when we throw it away, it pretty much ends up in the ocean and birds think it’s food!), I mean, even the existence of the trash gyres alone indicates how much we need to rethink plastic usage and packaging.

I firmly believe corporations should be responsible for product packaging post-consumer purchasing. Hey, we used to have milk companies that delivered milk in glass bottles (some still do!), then picked up the glass bottles from peoples’ houses to reuse them, and people have big jugs of water delivered, and they pick up the empty jugs to reuse, so we can obviously sterilize and reuse plastic for food and liquids, we already do or did with milk bottles and water bottles. We also have people reusing glass jugs for beer (“growlers”), bringing them in to breweries to be filled with beer. I think we should legislate package re-use for products including soda, juice, and water bottles, plastic razor packages, Chinese food containers, etc.

We could have big vending machines at markets (they already sometimes have water jug refilling vending machines and propane refiling vending machines) where you could refill products. Each plastic and glass container could have an etched-in bar code, which could be scanned by a laser for identification. Or companies would have bottling stations nearby, you would drop off your empty bottles and packages, the companies would pick them up, laser scan the packages, sterilize them, refill them, and bring them back to the store/supermarket.

I read this today, which is very good news, I think I’ll get in touch with them, because I think we really need to re-examine product life cycles (nothing just disappears when we throw it away).


Life Cycle Thinking:

“The European Commission has created a Web site devoted to the environmental impact of designing, manufacturing, and disposing of products, services, and energy. The site includes publications and a glossary. Life cycle information impacts agriculture, manufacturing, energy, waste management, constriction, and retail sales.”


Life Cycle Thinking and Assessment

“Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) seeks to identify possible improvements to goods and services in the form of lower environmental impacts and reduced use of resources across all life cycle stages. This begins with raw material extraction and conversion, then manufacture and distribution, through to use and/or consumption. It ends with re-use, recycling of materials, energy recovery and ultimate disposal.

The key aim of Life Cycle Thinking is to avoid burden shifting. This means minimising impacts at one stage of the life cycle, or in a geographic region, or in a particular impact category, while helping to avoid increases elsewhere. For example, saving energy during the use phase of a product, while not increasing the amount of material needed to provide it.

Taking a life cycle perspective requires a policy developer, environmental manager or product designer to look beyond their own knowledge and in-house data. It requires cooperation up and down the supply chain. At the same time, it also provides an opportunity to use the knowledge that has been gathered to gain signi cant economic advantages.”

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One Response

  1. EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery and programs like Design for the Environment have been working on similar ideas for some time.

    See http://www.epa.gov/osw/rcc/resources/meetings/rcc-2010/ and http://www.epa.gov/dfe and http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry.

    Unfortunately, they’re just voluntary.

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