One man’s rubbish…

In the not so distant past, the concept of waste was entirely different; there was no “away”, there was no sweeping things under the carpet. This was because everything had a value:

“One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”

This seems , to most of us, a fairly Utopian concept and to some it may be complete nonsense, but there is still a grain of truth in it, even in our disposable society.

With the rising popularity of “recycle, re-use and re-purpose” there has been a decrease in what many believed to be an unstoppable growth in non-recycleable rubbish, but it is still far from the days of the rag and bone man and the time when everything had a value no matter how trivial.

I believe herein lies the problem: value, or rather, perceived value. In today’s mass market disposable society, we use and then we throw away, to make room for the next trend, technology or fashion and this constant creation of new trends, technology and fads further feeds our creation of waste.

Although we now realise that there is a problem, there is no “away”, under the carpet is full. as are the landfills and the oceans for that matter. Thankfully it seems that we have reached a turning point, the mass market is losing its appeal, to quote leading business writer and speaker Joe Pine:

“Customers don’t want choice, they want exactly what they want”.

This is very important, especially coming from a man who has made his career on big business, but has now chosen to become the so called “guru of mass customisation”. This means consumers are wanting custom goods as opposed to the “one size fits all”, “pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap” products that we have become used to.

This turning point has manifested itself in the form of 3D printing, and when you think about it, it really has the edge. custom products in hours, with no waste. Utopian creation if there ever was but even with this Utopian answer starting to turn the corner. we still have to deal with our past sins.

In the past 70 years we have created more waste than the human race has ever created before and the likely hood that we will have found a conclusive solution to this mountain of accumulated waste in our lifetime is unfortunately pretty slim. but we can make a start.

The Ellen Macarthur  foundation has written extensively about the possibility of a “circular economy” breaking the trend of “take, make and dispose” (linear model) and replacing it with the circular. This is not by any means a new idea, it is only in the last 40 years that society has somehow forgotten the value of materials and this is the value that we have to learn again.

Most of us recycle, many of us re-use and even re-purpose obsolete items and we need to do more. Somehow we need to address our past indiscretions, so until we are all saved by the “zero waste, 100% efficient” manufacture that technology may one day provide for us.

Above: 3D printed object made from wood fibre by Emerging Objects.

For more info on the circular economy model by the Ellen Macarthur foundation visit:

A very interesting article that goes into the changes being currently felt in the business world:

Video about the Japanese inventor of a machine that turns plastic waste back into oil:







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