2. pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse
I went to a meeting yesterday where the word “sustainable” was used quite a bit. It’s a word you hear frequently these days, to the point that I think it may be losing some of its meaning.
The pertinent dictionary definition is quoted above. The idea of “continual reuse” is critical to any understanding of the term. At the meeting I attended I heard, for example, that because plastic grocery bags can be used to line trash cans, or pick up dog waste, they should be considered part of a sustainable system. The same idea is what drives others to say that, because it is theoretically possible to recycle plastic water bottles into plastic lumber or siding (which is then, regrettably, unable to be recycled), those bottles are therefore a sustainable resource.
The malleability and ongoing adaptability of the English language is part of its beauty and utility. It’s basic usefulness is why it is the international language of commerce and aviation and science. It is also the feature that opens it up to massive fraud. With all due respect to those in the plastics industry – who spoke at yesterday’s meeting – anytime you hear that plastic packaging, bags or bottles are somehow sustainable, you are hearing complete doublespeak, language used against itself for a particular purpose. You are hearing the sound of fraud.