Prevention is better than prescriptions. Design for Decomposition is a preventative measure for the challenges that reusing materials can bring. It's also a standard I would like to develop and promote maybe even into a certification program. The idea is to highlight product designers and producers who choose materials that can be composted or will easily decompose after the use of the product. This was the idea behind compostable corn based plastics and the "not a new" concept of using natural fibers and not synthetics. This not only keeps the energy used to produce this material more ecological (using the sun), but also this supports fiber farmers and ranchers, not the petroleum industries.
The Design for Decomposition concept can really shine in the single use disposable arena, such as coffee cups, to-go packages, forks and knives, water bottles. Companies that are using bamboo or wood or even recycled cardboard are thinking much further a head to the longevity of their sourcing and the waste their product creates. Ideally, a company that is adhering to the Design for Decomposition standards could close the loop on their business by having their growers connect with composting industries to supply any compost they might need to grow bamboo, trees, grasses or other fibers such as industrial hemp.
Cradle to Cradle covers the idea of designing for decomposition as well in the systematic design program they have. I'm promoting the idea of this standard for companies that might need that extra push to think about using naturally degrading materials, things that will decompose quickly, and to consider making with purity in their products. A wool sweater for example, perhaps mixing it with a synthetic fabric will help keep it from shrinking, but when it's thrown in the landfill it will take decades to decompose. In contrast, a sweater that you have to learn to care for made of 100% wool will likely be a higher quality product and one to develop a caring relationship for, it could last longer and decompose faster or be more easily reused as insulation for example.
This is a back to the future concept. Something simple we have lost touch with. Our ancestors didn't leave us mountains of trash to deal with. Why was that?
Here is a picture from Buddha jeans a sustainable clothing lifestyle company that is prioritizing using biodegradable synthetic fibers. It's interesting to know really how fast do these fibers degrade and in what conditions. I think this new fiber technology is interesting but I'd rather wear natural fibers like silk, wool, linen and hemp.