Ecological waste: rethinking the nature of waste

This note was reviewed and approved for currency by the Author in September 2018.

The design and construction fields have a central role to play in moving toward a 'zero waste' economy. Total resource consumption, both upstream and downstream from development, could be greatly reduced through ecological design. This will however require a paradigm shift to a more whole systems understanding of waste – as distinguished from what we could term ‘marginal analysis’.

This paper introduces the idea of ‘ecological waste’, which accounts for the loss of ecosystems in assessing development. Ecological waste analysis would consider the time and cost of replacing a living forest ecosystem and not just the biomass or ‘resource’. This is intended to move the goal post toward the aim of eliminating ‘designed waste’, or the duplication, disposability, planned obsolescence and wasteful end purposes to which a large portion of resources are sometimes directed through design. For the purposes of this paper, sustainability is understood in its strongest sense: as expanding future options. It is recommended that note Positive development is read as a preface to this paper.

note summary
  1. Introduction
  2. Doesn't waste depend more on behavior than system design?
  3. Aren't there zero waste programs established to address these issues?
  4. Does this mean that recycling approaches are a waste of time?
  5. Why aren't existing construction waste management practices adequate?
  6. How do system design approaches close loops and prevent disposal?
  7. Does the construction industry use principles of industrial ecology?
  8. What is the difference between eco-efficient and eco-logical?
  9. What is meant by the first step, awareness of 'designed waste'?
  10. What does the second step 'ecological waste analysis' entail?
  11. Don't assessment tools consider time, cost and value already?
  12. Wouldn't reducing ecological waste hurt economic progress?
  13. So how would we assess innovations and prioritise investments?