Scavenger Economics >> Advent Policy Brief #22

I have deep scavenger instincts. I figure most of it traces back to a childhood in clutter. My parents aren't hoarders, but they're intense collectors and keepers. It predisposed me to re-purposing and upcycling much before it was on trend. I love finding something discarded and making it into something wonderful from the edge of imagination. 

Also, TLC's early 2000's programming was very formative. I *loved* Junkyard Wars, and that needs a reboot on the ASAP.

A scavenger is adaptable, resourceful, and sees opportunity where others do not. The standard one-way trip to a landfill needs to be disrupted. My 22nd Advent Policy Brief asserts that federal leadership can stimulate the scavenger economy to do just that.

The feds can jump-start the scavenger economy with targeted subsidies for companies that can measurably divert waste for reprocessing into new products. Product life cycle interventions are already happening, but the daunting challenge of waste diversion needs serious funding to attract researchers, engineers, and planners. Many innovative waste diversion processes will form viable businesses without significant government assistance, but there will inevitably be processes that are ecologically sound but not economically viable.

The narrative of "economic viability" is convoluted. The task, the set of actions that total for value, is to clean up the planet, not to be wise capitalists. Closing production loops where profitable is an accommodation to the capitalist consumption of nature. It is not sufficient to harm-reduce a poison system. Unprofitable waste diversions should find a home in a federal agency or contracted firm with long-term operational funding.

Small-scale waste diversion interventions need to be scaled up too. There should be grants for community and creative projects that make artisanal products from local waste, like floor-mats out of milk bags, dresses out of curtains, or sculptures out of fishing nets. 

I do not want you to navigate away from this page thinking that a budget line is the way humans can live harmoniously with the planet. Survival demands stepping off the capitalist treadmill of death towards circular economics. Therein, manufacturers would be regulated to assume cradle-to-cradle responsibilities for the products they make.

That said, the country's government is going to be Liberal or Conservative for at least the next decade. They speak in subsidies and hiss at regulations. So in the spirit of get'r done, I'm embracing the scavenger economy.