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The Shape of Things to Come

By: Andrew H. Dent, Material ConneXion
Posted: January 5, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Just because someone buys a product, does not automatically mean that it will be solely his responsibility for what happens to it at the end of its life.
  • Extended producer responsibility is gaining importance with the increased costs and scarcity of raw materials and considerations of recycling/waste issues. This is going to be a major part of future supply chain management thinking.
  • Expect more restrictions and more consumer-driven boycotting of certain plastics or additives.
  • The additional demands that sustainable practices put on materials means that, more than ever, the whole life cycle and total impact of material choices needs to be understood.

This was written on the same day as an unprecedented show of collaboration from the newspapers globally regarding climate change. Fifty-six papers in 45 countries, published in 20 different languages, have joined an initiative that asks for leaders at the Copenhagen summit to put aside political differences and come to an agreement on carbon emission reductions in the next 20–50 years.*

Regardless of the short- and long-term outcomes, it is clear that there is massive concern for the current level of production and usage of all things, particularly the energy consumed in manufacturing these things.

Some might consider the next few years as a crisis point for the consumerism born of the 20th century. Energy is the major bugbear in this discussion, but materials and products play a very significant role as well, particularly when considering the consequences of such issues as the chemicals used in modern materials. The materials used in packaging and formulation of beauty products presents a particular challenge in this regard.

Appearance is so personal and so important to one’s sense of self, but what exactly are consumers willing to sacrifice to save the planet?