I was listening to a report on the first Maker Faire in England recently and was intrigued by a comment of one of the interviewees. He mentioned that industrial quality manufacturing equipment is become small enough for hard-core hobbyist to have in a garage. He mentioned a neighbor who makes electronic components to sell to device manufacturers.
The idea of garage based manufacturing brings up some concerns, and I think, some opportunities. Much manufacturing, particularly electronics, involves using many unsavory or downright dangerous materials. Garage enthusiasts are probably not regulated as much as corporations and can get away with improperly disposing of waste products. I'm sure many tinkerers do, because if you don't handle these things regularly, you're likely not going to have the proper systems to get rid of it.
On the other hand, I see a huge opportunity here for ideas like green chemistry. This is the idea that, if we take the time to figure them out, many chemical manufacturing processes that currently produce toxic waste, can be redesigned to be safer. However, the status quo is hard to change since most manufacturers already haves systems for handling the dangerous stuff.
Most people doing regular manufacturing on their own property are going to be extra careful about what they use. If there are safer ways to make something, they'll jump on it. At least that's what I'm hoping. Maybe the democratization of manufacturing will spur the development of green manufacturing practices.