Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Time to combine Life Cycle design & penalties for environmental waste to solve a ballooning problem

Monday 22 October 2012

Organisations like CleanUp Australia and have (along with many others) taken a leading role at identifying and removing waste that has entered our environment. Their efforts are fantastic yet have one clear problem - they rely on volunteers to clean up the mess of others, after the fact - it's a 'playing catch-up' strategy. So I'm thinking that the time is now right to use the 'end of life-cycle' product design approach to put the onus on product manufacturers to lift their game.

I've been particularly inspired by two recent images that landed on my desktop. One is of a pile of cigarette butts in a carpark at the Townsville Hospital (how's that for Irony!) and the other was of the (mainly) plastic/soft drink related rubbish collected on Bondi beach among others (find those images here). Here's what we know really well - when you put the emphasis of product returns back onto the producer, they change their models of behaviour and often, use product designs to do so.

So what we need right now is a $1 per cigarette butt penalty to be applied to makers of cigarettes for any of their butts collected from parks, railway stations, beaches etc. We know that cigarette companies will be keen to do this because they're wanting to ensure they can brand their cigarettes - so now EVERY butt will have their name clearly stamped on it.

And let's extend the idea to drink containers whilst we are at it. We all know it's been working in South Australia for years, we all know NT is bringing it in but has had a massive rejection by Coca-Cola threatening legal action (though I think that is because Coca-Cola are trying to bring in their own version of plastic and don't want supplies of existing plastic to come back online - don't quote me, just a thought). So let's say, oh, $1 per plastic container collected in a local Council precint. How quick do you think drink makers will embrace the idea of a 10c deposit scheme then?

And next, TV's (say $100 per dumped TV) PC's ($100)

How quickly will product designs focus on end of lifecycle as the penalty invoices start rolling in?

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