7 March 2012 – A new book, Designing  for Zero Waste, which explores research into the achievement of zero waste and a more sustainable society says such an ideal situation is only possible with behavioural change.

The book is edited by Professor Steffen Lehmann, director of the Zero Waste SA Research Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour at the University of South Australia and Dr Robert Crocker, senior lecturer in the school of art, architecture and design at this university.

First published in 2012 by Earthscan it is for anyone who cares how we use, reuse and value our resources in a resource poor world.

It examines the zero waste concept from the perspective of four interrelated areas – sustainability and behavioural change, consumption and technologies, the sustainable design of the built environment and governance and material flows.

Zero waste is seen as a concept that envisages a thriving society that exists within nature’s resource constraints and its ability to assimilate waste.

Steffen Lehmann

Underpinning the book is the idea that design and human behaviour are interlinked. Bad design results in waste throughout the life cycle of a product – from raw-materials extraction to its use and final recycling and disposal.

With contributions from experts in their fields, chapters include the psychology of consumption, and choices we make; the newest waste issues such as electronic waste, energy consumption and life-cycle analysis and the way urban and household infrastructure including green, is designed and how to bring these concepts into our cities.

Conclusions by the editors include analysis of the difficulties involved in developing successful programs for behaviour change in the face of unsustainable sociotechnical regimes.

They point out that building waste represents 40 per cent of most landfill around the world. While the energy consumption in using most modern buildings stands at “an unedifying 43 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

But Lehmann and Crocker finish on an optimistic note.  Zero waste would spell an end to the “throwaway,” “drive through”, “borrow-to-spend” society and another would evolve based on living intelligently with what we have, they stress.

But to achieve this, recycling alone is not enough. Recycling experts have confirmed that 100 per cent recycling and resource recovery is possible. For instance, new methods have been developed in Europe to collect all products containing rare and precious metals more efficiently such as cars and e waste to ensure the highest recycling rates.

But it’s the behaviour change needed for zero waste that lags. The essays in the book show progress towards a zero waste society is achievable in every domain.

However the problem is shifting the often-vast resources and investment currently deployed on unsustainable and waste practices into more sustainable ones –  many of which are suggested in this book.

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