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The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management
RESOURCE-USE POLICIES ARE INDUSTRIAL POLICIES
The choice of the best waste-management strategy is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. The promotion of recycling strategies—closing the material loops—conserves the existing economic structures and is thus easy to implement. Unfortunately, the economic value of recycling declines as the recycling volume increases. An increase in the amount of secondary resources causes an oversupply of materials and depresses the prices of virgin and recycled resources alike. The result is a need to export waste materials and with that comes the problem of oversupply. Future technical innovation in recycling will include improvements in design for the recyclability of goods and new recycling technologies, both of which cannot overcome the basic price squeeze mentioned (Jackson, 1993). Increased recycling does not reduce the flow of material and energy through the economy but reduces resource depletion and waste volumes.
In contrast to recycling, strategies for higher resource efficiency reduce the volume and speed of resource flow through the economy. One of the keys to resource efficiency is the take-back strategy: closing the product and material responsibility loops. However, strategies of higher resource efficiency often counter the validity of the present calculus of economic optimization that ends at the point of sale. At first sight, closed responsibility loops even seem to violate traditional task definition in the economy: Industry produces efficiently, consumers use quickly, and the state disposes efficiently. Strategies to close the product responsibility loops, such as the voluntary or mandatory take-back of consumer goods, impose structural changes and are thus more difficult to implement than the recycling of materials. Because these strategies are based on innovative corporate approaches, such as Xerox's asset management program, they are highly competitive as well as sustainable. These strategies will become even more competitive as the functional economy develops and energy prices rise (Stahel, 1994). Future technical innovations that can be expected in this field are those that enable the use of remanufactured and upgraded components and goods, and commercial innovations to keep goods in use as long as possible.
Strategies to achieve a higher resource efficiency through an optimization of the use of goods are measured as resource input per unit of use over long periods of time and will cause substantial structural change within the economy.1 The change will not be easy but these strategies will also have the biggest positive impact on industrial competitiveness. Early adoption may thus give a considerable long-term advantage to companies that dare to change first. Among the strategies for a higher resource efficiency are those for a longer and more intensive use of goods, those for dematerialized goods, and those for innovative system solutions (Table 1). Among the innovations to emerge from a promotion of higher resource efficiency are new technical and commercial strategies to improve use. There have also been innovations in redesigning components, goods,