We talked recently about pollution as nothing more than “lost” resources. We're seeing growing evidence that more people and businesses are thinking about waste as valuable resources, from a device that uses dog waste to power a light, to the example in this photo from a local Wal-Mart store. All of the shipping boxes being unpacked at the store have the label: "RETURN FOR CREDIT. EACH BOX COSTS THE COMPANY ABOUT $0.80."
Not long ago, packaging was seen on the receiving end as a disposal problem. Now it's regarded as part of a whole system. It's also viewed as a valuable resource. When resources appear in a form we can't readily use (including what we might call pollution or waste), we sometimes don't recognize their value. But we're now seeing a broadening view of what constitutes a valuable resource. The key is understanding form - the idea that a resource might be in the earth, or something that's been imported into our economic system and re-arranged into some useful tool, or some by-product of our industrial processes that's been "thrown away" or emitted as waste - and realizing that each of these resources, regardless of form, is fundamentally the same. The next step lies in garnering the most value, or most benefit, using the least amount of resources.