Necessity and inefficiency in the generation of waste: a thermodynamic analysis

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The laws of thermodynamics are employed as an analytical framework within which results about society's metabolism may be rigorously deduced in energetic and material terms. We demonstrate that the occurrence of waste is an unavoidable necessity in the industrial production of desired goods. Although waste is thus an essential qualitative element of industrial production, the quantitative extent to which waste occurs may vary within certain limits according to the degree of thermodynamic (in) efficiency with which these processes are operated. We discuss the question of which proportion of the amount of waste currently generated is due to thermodynamic necessity and which proportion is due to thermodynamic inefficiency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)113-123
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 04.2003
Externally publishedYes