"Cradle to Cradle"

On the subject of raw materials policy, it has become popular to refer to manufacturer takeback as "cradle to cradle".

The manufacturer is more like a high school teacher than it is a midwife.

The cradle of materials is the mine, or the forest, where the material is harvested. The harvesting of raw materials is so completely impactful, polluting, and devastating, that no matter how high the yields, it cannot be done in proximity to cities. Copper mines in Chile must bus employees from 30 miles away because the drinking water in all the adjoining towns is poisoned by the mining. Even secondary, or recycled, metal refining is toxic. While less toxic by far than primary mining and nuking ores with cyanide, all the secondary copper smelters in the USA (7 as of 1960) were closed down because the pollution was too much for residential cohabitation.

The cradle, the maternity ward of raw materials, is where the trees are cut down to either produce cellulose fiber, or to make room for heavy armament bulldozers which will scrap bare the mountaintop.

Sending copper, or plastic polymers, or other raw materials too far back is "negative yardage". You can turn HDPE plastics into petroleum, but you wouldn't want to, because the petroleum then has to be re-refined back upfield into HDPE. You don't want to send pure electric grade copper back to a blister-copper smelter. You don't want to grind a working PC power supply back into steel to be made back into a PC power supply.

So, "cradle to cradle" in one context means back to the one-yard-line in a football game, so you don't necessarily want to go back to the cradle. But if you did, for the record, the "cradle" is where the raw material is harvested from the earth.

The manufacturer in USA-Speak is a marketer who puts their brand on the face of equipment assembled from 18 other products. Dell is closer to Walmart than it is to Palmer and Dodge copper mining. Dell is probably closer to Walmart in its practices than it is to Intel or Corsair. That is not a criticism (I think Walmart is a consumer union on steroids).

I guess the landfill or incinerator really is the grave. Except that USGS.gov says that based on the economically harvestable raw materials (by economically, far enough away from people for society to accept the environmental costs of the mining) identified for mining, that landfills will be richer in copper and other metals than viable mines in 50 years. So for those of you who insist on throwing your computer away, Recycling Man says "see you later."

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