Cradle to Cradle Design

1.1 Cradle to Cradle® framework or a philosophy is one developed by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart. This concept is based on the positive nature of ecological footprints, the condition that we need to preserve them and not see them as a threat. It stands for the idea that a good design supports human existence and encourages environmental health and abundance. It is also referred to as C2C approach. It states that the corporate firm must create ecological footprints that promote social health. The model can be used not only in industrial design but in buildings and many other social systems.

The current model is based on “lifecycle development”. This model has been and will be implemented by a plethora of companies all over the world. The model involves dividing the materials into two categories- Biological and/or Technical nutrients. Technical nutrients are ones those can be recycled again and again but at the same time must be non-toxic and non-harmful. They are synthesized without becoming waste ever. On the other hand, biological nutrients are ones which can be disposed of easily in the natural environment without harming any beings.

The Cradle to Cradle Innovation consists of five criteria in total:

1. Material Health- Each product is decomposed into its constituent materials. The risk of each material is evaluated against criteria and ranked as Low, Medium or High Risk. Low risk materials are marked green, Medium as yellow and High as red. Incomplete data materials are marked grey. Any material with concentration greater than 100 ppm needs to be reported.

2. Material Reutilization- At the end of the product life cycle of the product, the material needs to be recovered and/or recycled.

3. Energy Assessment- 50% of the renewable energy for the certification in each part and subassembly

4. Water- The quality of water used, the amount and the areas where it is used and where it is discharged

5. Social Responsibility- How the various stakeholders of the society are taken care of and how the labor force is utilized to meet the company requirements

1.2 The concept of Eco-effectiveness

Eco- efficiency basically means reduction or elimination of waste. The concepts encompassed concepts of dematerialization, increased resource productivity, reduced toxicity, downcycling, extended lifespan, etc. These strategies are primarily “cradle to grave” strategies as they involve a system of production and consumption that transforms the earth into a graveyard for dumping the waste. These strategies for generating extra recyclability in the ecosystem work effectively until the materials acquire the status of waste or by using the material in low-process applications. In the end these materials end up in landfills and incinerators. They fail to end up as resources. Thus though these strategies aim to reduce productivity, none of them aims to maintain resource quality and productivity. In the long run, these strategies fail to achieve environmental and economic objectives. They fail to establish a relationship between industry and nature. Attacking the problem instead of the source results in a flawed system.

In contrast, eco-effectiveness aims at producing metabolisms similar to functioning of organisms. In this system, the material intensity per unit of the material is irrelevant to our study. For example consider a drug industry. There would be certain by-products and wastage associated with a single batch. Even if the product turns out to be a nutrient for the ecological system, it is of no value if it is not a part of the saleable product. Rather, if a batch is highly material ingredient intensive, it could be highly eco-effective as a system as the materials could be a part of natural resources.

While “efficiency” can be either good or bad, “effectiveness” ensures a sustainable and pleasant environment. As discussed few examples of biological nutrients could be biopolymers or other safe synthetic substances. The biological metabolism introduces those processes of extraction, use and their return to the natural state of the environment. These materials are generally used in products which contain exhaustible uses. An example could be that of a design of an ice-cream wrapper containing seeds, so that when you throw it away, not only it is disposed but it helps in the generation of new plant life in the soil. On the other hand a technical nutrient is used in services with a closed loop of recovery. This provides benefit to both the customer and the manufacturer as the latter “owns” the material assets while the customer receives the services throughout the lifetime. A best example of this could be a Car Rental Service, where the ownership lies permanently with the car owner or the company while the customer uses it for the temporary period for which he requires it. The manufacturer may get it back and assign a higher value to the product.

1.3 Applying the Framework

Thus a C2C design needs a re-design of products to be put to use. A framework needs to be developed which puts this concept to use. A stepwise strategy has been developed to put to use the framework.

a) Free of- Identify the most dangerous substance and replace it with the most eco-friendly substance i.e. doing more good. Eg.- replacement of mercury/cadmium

b) Personal Preference- After eliminating, the company should come up with new materials about the chemical compositions. Though these may not be most eco-effective they are better than their predecessors.

c) Passive positive test- An assessment of each ingredient is done to classify them according to their toxicological morphology. If it is for consumption, effect of human anatomy is to be studied. Additional optimization may be required to be a true product for consumption based on a passive positive list for biological metabolism.

d) Actual Positive Test- Optimization is carried on to the extent that each ingredient is a biological or technical nutrient. An example of this is the Climatex Lifestyle fabric in New Zealand. From a selection of 1600 dye formulations, EPEA utilized their methodology to identify 16 that met both the desired technical and environmental specifications. [26]. This can be also included to service industry quoting the example of the Ford Model U car.

e) Reinvention- Reinvention aims to establish a relationship with the customer. Basically, the customer isn’t interested in the ingredients but the service. Hence an effort is made to provide the best product mix along with the combination of biological and technical ingredients. An example of a micro-wave oven can be taken which is provided by the company but the liability of the customer is limited to the services used. The owner is going to get back the nutrients used.

An automobile can be constructed which lets out only positive emissions like capturing nitrogen. The tires can be designed to capture harmful dust particles.

1.4 Reverse Logistic Strategies in a C2C design

Most manufacturers suffer from regulations surrounding the factories and use of generators and chemicals. Europe is taking the upper hand in controlling automobile waste and then emptying landfills in the electronic and packaging industry to go for re-use and recycle strategy. Institutions play a major role in forcing the manufacturers though market and regulatory pressures. There is also a competition in this particular market. These forces make the market move closer to each other in the same direction. (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). As firms are more and more compliant with these regulations, there is an impetus to provide the best good in the market (Darnall et al., 2008). A balanced choice should be made by firms about the end-of-life goals. When the return value of the end-of-life product is unknown, the collection point closest to the consumer should evaluate the product or assembly and sort valued parts or components—only valued parts or components should be returned to the manufacturer or next user in order to save transportation costs . (Savaskan et al., 2004).

We can see this with an example of a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Consider the cost of a bottle of Coca-Cola which costs Rs.10 to the customer. The cost of the bottle is, let’s say, Rs.2.5. Since the Coca-Cola bottles are re-used the cost to the company remains Rs.1 per sale.

1.5 Examples of C2C in industry

We discuss now some of the examples in real life where these principles have been and can be applied.

a) Caterpillar Industry- Caterpillar is a firm that designs and manufactures machinery, engines and other mechanical engineering insurances, founded in 1925. They underwent a practice of remanufacturing incorporating the cradle to cradle design. Remanufacturing is basically returning the end product to the original “same & new” in a production unit. The process is that initially, the complex part, let’s say the carburetor of a car is removed and disassembled. They are then processed through an advanced recycling technology using LASER. The parts such as nuts, bolts, joints are then removed. They undergo an Assembly test in the R&D laboratory. They are then sold as new and better products where they are reassembled at a fraction of the old price. This resulted in over 2 billion pounds of machinery returned every year. 2.2 million new units were produced in 2007. Processes used to clean the previous material are head recasting, thermal casting, shock wave cleaning, metal deposition, etc. The above practices have led to lesser water, energy, material and landfill use to the company by nearly 100%. As a result, it has led to extended producer responsibility, Jobs, recycling, affordable development, etc. The new products are up to specifications by industry and totally remanufactured. The customers get a full warranty cover on the product too. At the end, the product sold may be entirely different from what it was in the first place. For example, a diesel truck engine may be converted into a methane fueled generator. The firm had also taken up a “zero e-waste initiative” where electronics would be exchanged for new goods and the usable parts would be recycled. This company is a perfect example of how eco- efficient operations led to innovations in product technology, which in turn led to sustainable ecological solutions.

b) Ford Model U- After the release of its model T, Ford motors came up with new innovations as a part of its centennial. Since fossil fuels resources are declining and prices are escalating, they came up with a hydrogen fuel model. The new version of the engine gave up to 99% less emissions. According to reports, the upholstery and the car body paint are made of a special polyster which is recycled. In other words the material can be decomposed into pieces which can be used as compost for the soil. Most cars use a lot of carbon in the tires and the interiors. Ford U uses a special type of Soya Resin and a corn based starch. The head of technology Wagner points out that, Ford had been at the pinnacle of innovation since the world war times when hemp (a drug which is now illegal) was being used in cars. They further plan to use hydrogen sourced from water as fuels in the future to recycle the footprint. The manufacturing facility is itself a manifestation of the C2C design. They constructed a 10 acre green roof that, in concert with porous paving and a series of constructed wetlands and swales, cost-effectively filters storm water runoff, which is typically managed with expensive technical controls.

c) Drug industry- The drug industry has seen Pharmaceuticals and Personal care products (PPCP) mushrooming in the market of late. A large no. of chemicals have been used in the manufacture and have been the subject of much debate and review. A no. of research methods are being researched regarding the drug delivery, design and the packaging of the PPCPs. New drug design is one of the methods. Inert ingredients are being used (which are a combination of technical and biological nutrients known as excipients). Packaging guidelines convey certain routes for recommended disposal. In the United States, consumer warning and use information regarding drugs is conveyed not just on affixed labels but also on attendant documents such as prescription “leaflets,” the minimum information content for which is set by the U.S. FDA. For prescription drugs, these leaflets are supposed to contain (at a minimum) the FDA-approved prescribing information (also called a package insert) .

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