In this book, I intended to satisfy the following two objectives:
- to present industrial ecology and ecological economics as a consistent body of knowledge using the case study of the IPP; and
- to evaluate the IPP and to suggest ways in which it could be further improved from the perspective of the above body of knowledge.
To satisfy these objectives, I first presented the IPP, as it was developed by the end of 2006 (Chapter 2), and then moved to the discussion of ecological economics and industrial ecology (Chapters 3 and 4). This discussion focused on the linkages between them and on the implications for the IPP that can be formulated on that basis. Indeed, in section 4.5, I concluded that not only are these two areas closely related, but also that industrial ecology belongs within the larger field of ecological economics. Moreover, they can provide a theoretical background for policies concerning the rather vaguely understood concepts of sustainable development and its subconcepts of sustainable production and consumption, including the IPP.
Life-cycle assessment (LCA) and eco-design are most often associated with industrial ecology; however, they are also increasingly referred to within ecological economics. Because of their relevance for the IPP, they have been discussed in a separate Chapter (5). Another chapter has been devoted to the overview of input-output analysis (Chapter 6). Input-output analysis constitutes one of the tools unifying ecological economics and industrial ecology, and it is broadly used to study economy-environment interactions. Also, it could prove beneficial in the case of the IPP.
In Chapter 7, I investigated major policy implications for the IPP and, by extension, any other product-oriented environmental policies. It has become clear that the IPP in its current form satisfies the theoretical implications of ecological economics and industrial ecology only to a limited extent, and thus should be further amended according to the following hierarchy of objectives:
- to make consumption ‘reasonable’;
- to provide efficient systems of product end-of-life management; and
- to ensure the incremental improvement of products’ environmental performance through eco-design.
If all three objectives were satisfied, production and consumption would become more sustainable and the whole economy more competitive. So far, the IPP has only addressed these objectives selectively (it focuses on the third, addresses the second, and only vaguely refers to the first one). Thus, it does not exploit its full potential to contribute to sustainable development, principally because, in its current form, it fails to adopt a fully integrated, systems perspective. The importance of the latter has become clear in the discussion of case studies of a car and of the product-oriented environmental policy of the Netherlands, also in Chapter 7.
This final chapter offers an overview of the conclusions stemming from the above analysis. I first review the linkages between ecological economics and industrial ecology (section 8.2) and then, between these two areas and the IPP (section 8.3). The actual theoretical implications for the IPP are presented in section 8.4, followed by a review of areas requiring further research in section 8.5. In section 8.6, I survey some challenges to the IPP, both in general, and to the IPP, as presented in this volume. In section 8.7, I offer final remarks to close the book.