I beg to differ, the task is anything but easy.
First why is waste demonized? Correct if I am wrong, but currently in this discussion, waste is being defined as a short life cycle. In reality, waste occurs throughout that life cycle, in the manufacturing, distribution and disposal of a product. A square meter of silk cloth imported from Japan for Furoshiki may use an equivalent of resources to make 1,000 paper bags 100 miles from me. What would be more wasteful?
There are so many variables. Where is the manufacturing plant, how far are resources from the plant, what economies of scale does the plant have, what’s the distribution chain, how efficient is the design for materials used, what resources were used in the design cycle, etc, etc, etc. The list is endless.
And waste itself, or entropy, is just a physics fact. It is a biological function, you cannot survive without it. It just is, nothing you can do about it. And even if we completely strip to nothing, lay waste to a particular resource, what says we can’t use something else as a substitute? This planet has been producing waste for 4 billion years.
And then there is bang for your buck. What is the best way to reduce “waste”. What will have more impact? The average American eats 4-5 meals out. How wasteful is that compared to brown-bagging it or compared to using a Furoshiki? Maybe giving up one meal of week out is the equivalent to using a Furoshiki for a month instead of using a bag. I have to pick and choose what is the smartest choice to reduce waste. I can’t completely give up all convenience either, I don’t have the time. I also can’t be expected to live like your average Bangladeshi.
You need to know an inventory of resources and rate of consumption to have any clue to what is sustainable or not. While I certainly won’t claim to know all credible studies, I have never seen one truly defines what is sustainable and what is not. They are all “waste is bad” without any evidence to actually prove why it is bad.
So where is the line? What is sustainable? My current consumption? A future increased consumption? The consumption of a Bangladeshi? I have no clue. I would love it if it were in an easily obtained credible study.