Where is the Dis-assembly Line?

MASSIVE CHANGE, by Bruce Mau, is a fascinating book released in 2004 which looks at the systems of design and how they affect our world. It is an extremely powerful and thought provoking book, and exhibit, which I had the benefit of being exposed to while I was an undergraduate architecture student. I highly recommend reading the book if you have any interest in the topics we have discussed in class, but if you don’t, there is a fair chance I may reference it multiple times during the quarter.

One of the issues explored in the book is the idea of Manufacturing Economies and the changes that will need to happen within that industry for us to survive. Within the manufacturing industry a cradle-to-cradle system is heavily explored; improve our existing system to be a never ending loop of creation, use, disposal and then reuse. To do this the players in the system will have to start creating components and materials that can be reused in some productive fashion but we also need to understand the importance of disposal, products need the ability to break down and be redistributed as components which still have some productive value.

I saw a piece in The Atlantic last week which discussed a study MIT did, where a group tracked 3000 pieces of garbage that were disposed of in Seattle to see where they ultimately ended up. Surprisingly, there is coated paper sent to Chicago, cellphones sent to Texas and printer cartridges sent to Mexico, among some of the other destinations. As much as a liked the study, I felt unsatisfied not knowing what happened to those products at their end destination; why did they travel so far just to stop? I would like to assume at those end destinations there was some recycling process which brought the item back into the fold of production as a new component in a new product. However, without further research I will never know.

It’s great that as a society we are really starting to appreciate the complex process of product disposal, especially considering how much of a consumer society we are and how much consuming we do which we do not need; god knows we really need that new iPhone with the talking lady in it. As a consumer society, the only way we can expect to survive is to use a cradle-to-cradle system, to finally start creating this system more research like the MIT study needs to be done but instead of stopping the research at the end of a products current life, it would be great to see how it starts the next one.

The Atlantic article on the MIT study, http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2012/01/how-ink-cartridge-thrown-away-seattle-ended-mexico/941/

Direct to the MIT Trash | Track website, http://senseable.mit.edu/trashtrack/index.php

MASSIVE CHANGE at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Massive-Change-Bruce-Mau/dp/0714844012

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