A cradle-to-grave assessment also known as life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life, from raw material extraction through to materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and until the end (disposal or recycling of the material).
Proper assessment can help in solving a lot of environmental issues through evaluating the potential impacts associated with the products.
Moreover, negative environmental impacts are associated with each stage of its production. For example, the production of textiles and related products is an extensive cycle which involves the use of many litres of water, chemicals and energy and generates huge amounts of wastes at each stage. In India, the problem is compounded by decentralised production involving numerous small scale units that result in the dispersement of pollution and in difficulties in monitoring and standardisation. There is definitely a need for a holistic, cradle-to-grave, life-cycle approach that enables adoption of sustainable methods of production and processes.
Kabaadi system & kabaadiwalas (dealers in scrap and junk)
Every month, every household in India is visited by a Kabaadiwala (scrap collector). They provide a door-to-door service and are ready to buy anything that has the potential to be reused or recycled i.e. newspapers, bottles, furniture, plastic bags, utensils, tin cans, old shoes, plastic, utensils and electronic gadgets.
For the scrap "bought" from the households, the owner is duly monetarily compensated. At the same time, compensation in rural villages could also range in terms of an ice-cream cone. It is a fairly sophisticated system of waste recovery which has been built into our culture and has been implemented for generations, leading to an increase the lifespan of the average product in India by a number of years, far greater than in the West.
In his article on sustainable innovation, Mr. Prodipto Ghosh, member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, mentions that even though India is building up its infrastructure, it remains for now a relatively resource-efficient economy, and much of this has to do with the presence of these traditional practices. If we really want sustainable innovation, we need to harness these practices and adapt them, rather than consign them to history.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh, RESET editorial