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preserve_gimme5-mailAnthropocenic Discards and the Hydrocarbon Economy I:  Circulations of Commodities in Art, Economy and Culture

Sasha Adkins,  Antioch College: Plastic Marine Debris: An Unintended Consequence of Disposable Culture

This paper  examines trends in the types and abundance of plastic marine debris in both oceans and lakes. It discusses land and marine-based sources, as well as various strategies that have been proposed to collect and repurpose the plastic.  The paper will look at the Method brand campaign to incorporate recycled plastic marine debris into their bottles and a failed effort to convert the plastic into fuel. Analysis will be situated in the context of shifting away from disposable culture and implementing upstream source reduction.

D.G. Webster, Omid Roozmand, Dartmouth College: Discards and the Anthropocene: Satisficing, Magical Thinking, and Norms of Disposability. Economists recognize that status and luxury are both important components of consumer utility functions and that issues of relative gains can cause a “rat race” in which consumers work harder in order to purchase more than they would otherwise in order to “keep up with the Jones”. This drives up aggregate consumption, which in turn increases the environmental impact of the anthropocene. However, there are other social and psychological factors that may have a similar effect. This paper shows that the magnitude of the aggregate consumption can be significantly magnified by three major social-psychological factors: satisficing, magical thinking, and norms of disposability. Satisficing occurs when consumers select the first good they find that is satisfactory and fits within their consumption budget. Magical thinking occurs when consumers expect that the purchase of a good will miraculously improve their lives. When this improvement does not materialize, then consumers search for and purchase a new “magical” product. If there are strong social norms against disposal of goods, as during the Great Depression, then these two factors should not increase consumption because consumers would be more likely to select durable goods and would use them up before purchasing new items. However, when norms regarding disposal of goods are lax, both satisficing and magical thinking can lead to much higher levels of consumption and waste, both pre- and post-consumption. This in turn increases environmental impacts on many fronts, including use of fossil fuels and other resources as well as levels of pollution from the production and transportation of goods. Our paper develops an agent based model of aggregate demand to demonstrate these outcomes in an abstract but highly generalizable way.

Simone Feracina, OEFFICE: Reactivation of Wastes

In the Anthropocene, design thinking can no longer be limited to the creation of compelling objects and buildings, but must be extended to a “deep time” beyond present goals and desires, and aimed at an ecologically positive and continuous up-cycling loop. The talk argues that this challenge cannot be addressed exclusively within the optimistic arena of design solutions, but must also engage the public in the production of a new, collective vocabulary of images, words, desires and meanings.  A series of critical design works and practices involving the reactivation of waste—plastics in particular—will be presented and discussed.

Atiq Uz Zaman, University of South Australia: Application of Zero Waste Index as an Alternative Performance Assessment Tool: The Context of Adelaide

Adelaide, South Australia is one of the high-consuming cities of the world that has developed and implemented a zero waste strategy to achieve optimum resource recovery from waste. Many similar cities are adopting a zero waste strategy with a 100% rate of diversion of waste from landfill as a key goal. This study argues that achieving a 100% diversion rate will not be adequate and does not reflect the core concept of zero waste philosophy. In a previous study, the zero waste index was presented as an alternative waste management performance assessment tool for zero waste management systems. In this study, waste management performance in Adelaide during the years 2003 to 2010 is analysed using the proposed zero waste index tool and Adelaide’s performance in waste management in 2015 and 2020 is predicted. The study indicates that waste composting is increasing significantly in Adelaide and, by the year 2015, the amount of waste composted should be higher than the amount of waste going to landfill. For this reason biological waste treatment infrastructure, particularly in waste composting facilities, should be stimulated in Adelaide. In addition, the study identifies that, despite the zero waste strategy being in place, overall waste management performance in Adelaide may not reach the targeted zero waste goals, particularly in optimum resource recovery from waste. The projected results indicate that by 2020, if similar waste diversion rates continue, Adelaide should have reached a diversion rate of over 82% of municipal solid waste from landfill; and the zero waste index would then be 0.45 (increasing from its current 0.41 (with a 72% diversion rate). The study identified the most important priority areas for future waste management strategies in Adelaide.

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