Waste is a fascinating concept because it tells us how a society values its resources. Ancient Romans recycled glass not because it was required but because it was a valuable commodity, particularly in the fringes of their empire. Visit a landfill today and you’ll find objects scarcely a year old with plenty of useful life left which have been discarded. The constant upgrading of gadgets and consumer goods is driven by business-as-usual market forces. This leads to phenomena such as built-in obsolescence. Artificially limiting the life of a tool or product would have been viewed as crackpot economics by our ancestors not to mention damn wasteful.
Fortunately there exist models of business which are designed to maximise value from cradle to cradle. Some of these are big names, Rolls Royce for example. As an aeroplane customer you rent power via engine leasing rather than buying the engine itself. This aligns everyone’s interest in terms of quality of service and maximises engine life thereby decreasing overall environmental impact.
The leasing service has extended to lighting with light-as-a-service model with big players like Philip’s involved and a bunch of startups and growth businesses e.g. Leased Lighting. Again this means you’re getting the best value for your pound because the vendors want to make sure their bulbs last as long as possible.
Turning to the car industry there is a new Welsh startup – Riversimple – which uses an entirely circular business model by leasing all its components to other manufacturers. It also happens to be powered by hydrogen which sounds cool and gives it a range of 200mpg. In their words there is ‘no trade-off between profit and purpose’.
This is the kind of language which will seem obvious to some and odd to others, certainly to our Roman cousins it would have seemed like common sense. But then there’s not an awful lot of that around.