No Escaping Hazardous Waste

"Large amounts of hazardous wastes will continue to be generated in the future even under optimistic but realistic expectations."— Environmental Technology Council, a trade association of commercial environmental firms.

Environmental Technology Council, "Hazardous Waste Incineration: Advanced Technology to Protect the Environment," February 2007.

Architect and industrial designer William McDonough, for example, has been setting forth his ideas on zero waste since the early 1990s. McDonough envisions a world where factories produce completely safe products that require no regulation and can be easily remade into new goods. McDonough quite literally views this as the next phase for the world, the step that must follow the pollution-producing Industrial Revolution. As McDonough explains:

The Industrial Revolution as a whole was not designed. It took shape gradually as industrialists and engineers figured out how to make things. The result is that we put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air, water and soil every year and generate gigantic amounts of waste. If our goal is to destroy the world—to produce global warming and toxicity and endocrine disruption—we're doing great. But if the goal isn't global warming, what is? I want to crank the wheel of industry in a different direc tion to produce a world of abundance and good design— a delightful, safe world that our children can play in.64

McDonough would make this dream happen by convincing manufacturers to use sustainable "cradle-to-cradle" design, in which everything used to make products is either returned to the soil as nontoxic biodegradable nutrients or returned to industry, where it can be infinitely recycled into new products. Companies could accomplish this by employing new product designs that use only chemicals and materials that are completely safe— that is, by making major changes at the very beginning of the design and production process. As an example, McDonough has already helped design completely safe fabrics that use and produce absolutely no toxins in the manufacturing process. He is currently working with Fortune 500 companies and the government of China to transform many of his other ideas into reality.

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