Mazda: William McDonough called…

William McDonough is, amongst other things, author of the utterly brilliant Cradle to Cradle. Short version: when we recycle, say, a plastic bottle, we do not get another plastic bottle. In fact we downcycle materials, making less and less-robust products with each iteration. We do, slowly, waste resources. McDonough’s call is for pure recycling, or upcycling, in which that plastic bottle gives us another bottle. A car, for example, can have all of its parts recovered (including paint, rubber, plastics, etc.) and used to make the same thing again on the next car.

Introductions over. I discovered another alternative universe for myself, this evening, reading this article in Wired magazine (Techno-Cowboys of the Deep Sea: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace).

Short version: incredible. And this isn’t just because I’m a weirdo who can read entire books about the Beaufort Scale while not actually liking the ocean’s role. It’s an incredibly interesting story.

However. This piece stood out the strongest, for me:

For more than a year, the 4,703 Cougar Ace Mazdas sit in a huge parking lot in Portland, Oregon. Then, in February 2008, the cars are loaded one by one onto an 8-foot-wide conveyor belt. It lifts them 40 feet and drops them inside a Texas Shredder, a 50-foot-tall, hulking blue-and-yellow machine that sits on a 2.5-acre concrete pad. Inside the machine, 26 hammers — weighing 1,000 pounds each — smash each car into fist-sized pieces in two seconds. The chunks are then spit out the back side.

Though most of the cars appeared to be unharmed, they had spent two weeks at a 60-degree angle. Mazda can’t be sure that something isn’t wrong with them. Will the air bags function properly? Will the engines work flawlessly throughout the warranty period? Rather than risk lawsuits down the line, Mazda has decided to scrap the entire shipment.

4,703 cars, reduced to nothing but unusable pills. Not a single part of the automobiles recovered or recycled. Insane.


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