Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is a principle that describes the elimination and avoidance of waste through perfect cycles. According to the vision of German chemist Michael Braungart and U.S. architect William McDonough, who developed the concept of C2C in 2002, it should apply to all products.
Orientation for this principle is based on the biological cycle, which leaves no waste behind, but in which everything is reused and recycled.
Our economic production system today, however, is based on the exact opposite principle: cradle to grave. This means that most products cannot be reused after they have been used and are therefore a waste product. For our products, finite raw materials have to be extracted each time, which - after they broke or fulfilled their purpose - contribute as waste to environmental pollution and our waste problem.
As the name cradle to cradle suggests, the C2C principle focuses on a potentially infinite cycle and reuse of resources. In addition, ecological effectiveness is crucial to not only being carbon neutral, but to leaving a positive footprint.
Braungart and McDonough distinguish between consumer goods (biological cycle) and consumer durables (technical cycle).
After use, consumables can serve as "food" for a new product in the biological cycle (see diagram: through biological degradation, used consumables become biological nutrients, which are subsequently absorbed by plants). These include biodegradable packaging, cleaning agents and natural fibers.
Consumer goods can be broken down into individual material components after use (see graphic: after return, they are taken apart and broken down into technical nutrients), which can continue to circulate in the technical cycle. Examples of consumer goods are electrical goods and flooring.
Criticism of the concept: Critics complain that implementation is cost-intensive and that C2C cannot be implemented for all products.
The concept of the Circular Economy is also based on the principles of Cradle to Cradle. This advanced concept aims to design economic systems in a way that is compatible with nature.
Sources (translated from German):
Vision of Cradle to Cradle: https://enorm-magazin.de/wirtschaft/kreislaufwirtschaft/cradle-to-cradle/was-ist-eigentlich-cradle-cradle
Cradle to Cradle cycles (and image): https://epea.com/ueber-uns/cradle-to-cradle
Interview with Cradle to Cradle expert Dr. Christoph Semisch: https://www.tuev-nord.de/de/unternehmen/bildung/wissen-kompakt/umweltschutz/das-cradle-to-cradle-konzept-in-der-praxis/