Guardian on McDonough’s collaboration with Waste Management


Where there’s muck there’s brass: dumpster diving for a waste-free world

Cradle to cradle designer William McDonough tells Jo Confinohow a new partnership linking design to dumpster contents will help eradicate waste

The master moves like water to the low places that others disdain.

William McDonough, the creator of the cradle to cradle approach to design, quotes the ancient Chinese philosophical treatise the Tao Te Ching to describe the creation of an innovative collaboration he has formed with Waste Management, North America’s largest environmental solutions provider and leading residential recycler.

Sifting through the dumpster

The partnership, which was announced today, links design with “what’s in the dumpster,” and McDonough hopes it will put pressure on producers, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers of packaged goods and products to eradicate waste altogether and scale up the circular economy.

For Waste Management, it offers the opportunity to transform over time to a resource management company that makes money from the breakdown and re-use of materials.

The reason that McDonough is excited is that the new collaboration not only brings a Fortune 200 company into the heart of the circular economy but also links the entire value chain together in driving change to create a world in which nothing is thrown away, but is broken down into component parts which benefit the surrounding environment.

“By bringing logistics partners and material science together, we can design up from the dumpster,” McDonough tells the Guardian at the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego. “If I am in the dumpster, I have all sorts of authority as I can say to companies why are you sending me materials that cannot be re-used.

“We will surprise people from there, it is authentic. What kind of business would produce something that ends up costing me money to dispose of.

“By analysing what’s in the dumpster, we will be able to see the worst offenders and then offer to help them to change. Reduce, reuse and recycle are not enough if the materials that are used are not safe. We see resources as nutrients in the biosphere or technosphere. Once you reframe materials this way, the future of abundance becomes possible.”

McDonough currently has in his crosshairs the rapid rise in the use of refillable pouches for products, which companies are hailing as sustainable because they reduce the weight of packaging, but are made from multi-layered polymers that cannot be recycled.

Read the full article here.