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The Intelligent Product System (IPS)

The Intelligent Product System (IPS)

A far more drastic and long-term solution to the problems of waste production and management has been developed by a team led by Dr. Michael Braungart, who is currently a professor of Process Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Suderburg. Called the Intelligent Product System, Braungart et al. propose a foundational shift from the current system of production and consumption that was primarily a result of the industrial revolution. Braungart traces the societal emphasis on production (and thus consumption) and the general lack of concern about waste treatment and management to the industrial revolution and puts forth a new, alternative system called IPS. Under IPS, all products are grouped into three distinct categories.

Consumption Products

Consumption products are those things which are completely exhausted after a single use, after which the waste is put into the environment (i.e. food, soap). Under IPS, all such products must be biodegradable or abiotically degradable, as well as being non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-mutagenic, and non-accumulative.

Service Products

The second category is that of service products. These include items which have traditionally been purchased by consumers to pro-vide continued services (i.e. cars, washing machines, televisions). Under IPS, such items are leased by consumers rather than purchased, and whenever such products outlive their use to the consumer, they are returned to “waste supermarkets.” These “waste supermarkets” act as warehouses for the separation of the components of the various materials which will be re-turned to manufacturers for reuse. Notably, this process differs from traditional recycling, which typically consists of downcycling, in which recycled materials are of lesser quality after each time they are recycled. Under IPS, this will no longer occur, as any products which cannot be reused without degradation in a closed-loop system between producers and consumers will be stored until processes which enable this are developed. However, Braungart does not outline the manner in which such storage facilities will be established or funded.

Unmarketable Products

The final category under IPS is a catch-all for everything no included in the former categories. Unmarketable products include anything which cannot be consumed in a sustainable fashion, for example, aluminum production would have to cease because the waste produced cannot be managed sustainably. In the short-term under IPS, such products are to be stored, while in the long-term, all production of any such materials would cease completely.

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