Understandably there is a lot of current discussion about the rapid rise in pollution Particularly its effect on global warming, the changing of landscapes, erosion of land and coastline, impact on wildlife and indigenous people. As a consequence of this there are initiatives around packaging waste, plastic bags, plastic lined paper cups, reuse of plastic in roads, displacement of chemicals and harmful materials, alternative energy sources and recycling strategies . All of these are helpful but they are only scratching the surface.
I was intrigued by a recent documentary on the fashion industry, “Stacey Dooley Investigates”. I along with others had no idea of how much water was consumed in cotton production. Great swathes of lakes, watercourses and seas have been destroyed. She highlighted, and visited the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, which has reduced to a third of it’s size, devastated local life and the fishing industry. There were other issues around chemical pollutants in rivers, and drinking water in Indonesia. Having worked there myself, I can vouch for the stench, and the horrible conditions the workers and residents endure. The thing that is disturbing, is the industry that supports it. The “Fast Fashion” industry goes beyond the functional, and is actively generating waste through a throwaway attitude to clothing, now on an exponential scale. Fashion has always had this element, but I hadn’t appreciated that it has moved on beyond quarterly or seasonal to weekly. I am not intending to pick out one particular industry, but highlight the “intended” waste generation mindset that is behind it. Other industries are beginning to challenge this with recyclable cups. This is a societal issue as well as an industry issue, and the sector has to work with society in a responsible way. Unnecessary waste generation has to be challenged at all levels, without impacting appropriate economic growth. In the way we are moving to more economical and functional transport, we also need to move to a more functional mindset where growth and sustainability can co-exist. We have blogged before about the need for a change in the thinking and the possibilities of a circular economy, where we don’t become reliant on boom and bust. This is just one way we can drive waste reduction and sustainability.
This of course does not negate the requirement for manufacturers to keep searching for more efficient processes and sustainable raw materials. This is one of the reasons why at L2S we strive for influencing waste reduction, not just from the traditional “Lean” perspective i.e. the 8 wastes, but also looking at Process, Energy, Effluent, and Transactional waste in a synergistic way, as they all contribute to each other.