At a family reunion in August, I offered a brief tribute to my mother on her 90th birthday. As guests sip coffee in the warm summer air, I sketch out a dozen pieces of wisdom she’s passed down to her family over the decades. I believe one of her insights was an aversion to waste. In our homes, items like clothes and toys go through multiple lives before being thrown away, and leftover food becomes tomorrow’s lunch. In other words, my mother was an early advocate of a circular economy, where there are multiple iterations of materials and products, and waste from one process is recycled back to become an input for another.
For her generation, these were commonly held values. But younger generations have largely departed from these ideas, opting instead to produce and consume more and more. Some waste is recycled, but this only addresses the planet’s finite resources.
This finiteness of supply distinguishes materials from energy sources. There is no doubt that in the future we will be able to harvest more solar energy and even build nuclear fusion reactors, thereby eliminating energy shortages forever. But for material resources, there is no such technology.
That’s what makes the research reported in this Outlook so important.As the world moves to put its economies on a sustainable footing, this Outlook looks at progress and obstacles Sustainable use and reuse of plastics; Electronic equipment such as mobile phones; building materials; and Apparel and other textiles. It also examines the shift to more environmentally friendly forms of biofuels, which will Promoting agriculture that reduces soil depletion and carbon generationand an urgent need to become better stewards Earth’s water resources. The two researchers also debate whether plastic recycling is The core of circular economy developmentor one counterproductive distraction From the need for more fundamental change.
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