This week's show (Sundance Channel, 9pm Tue) introduces us to a new concept, cradle to cradle. Simply put, many of the products we use come from the ‘cradle’ of the planet in the form of natural but not renewable or sustainable resources such as hydrocarbons, and end up in the ‘grave’ of the planet's landfills. Cradle to cradle is to use renewable resources, and use them in such a way that when the product reaches the end of its useful life the component parts can once again return to their original raw material.
As Frederic Scheer (CEO of Cereplast) points out, plastic is a wonder material, and its uses are almost endless, but what happens to it when it has reached the end of its useful life? In the case of a supermarket plastic bag, the useful life may be 30 minutes, or however long it takes you to get your groceries home. The next step for the bag is the landfill. Fifty or a hundred years from now, that bag is still there. From plastic bags to entire motor cars, there is a sustainable answer.
"Paper or Plastic" features three people that are embracing the cradle to cradle concept, and making a great name for themselves in the process. One such person is Jay Bolus, who helped develop McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry’s “Cradle to Cradle” benchmarking methodology. “Cradle to Cradle” certification is a tool used to evaluate the impact chemicals and materials have on human and environmental health throughout their life cycles. Bolus, MBDC, and the United States Postal Service have teamed up to reduce the USPS’ environmental footprint by eliminating toxic inks, adhesives, and coatings from its packaging.
Also from MBDC we get to meet the design team for the concept Ford Model U, a car designed to be eco-friendly and ‘cradle to cradle’. Non-polluting, the Model U uses hydrogen as its fuel. All of the components use low eco-impact materials, and are fully recyclable.
Cereplast is a company with a vision. They are manufacturing the raw materials for a biodegradable plastic. A frightening statistic is that each year the US alone disposes of 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, and these all end up in the landfill. Frederic Scheer (CEO) has a solution; using corn, starches, and other renewable and non toxic materials, he creates biodegradable plastic. Depending on the end product it will biodegrade to ‘worm food’ within 60-180 days.