Just as the nanotech community is proclaiming that molecular nanotechnology (MNT) can be used to clean up present toxic wastes, there is pressure to ensure that self assembling nanotech products are not only self regulating but also have the ability to ‘disassemble’ built in.
Self-regulating assembly has controls built-in to limit replication rates of molecular assemblers. Some bacteria naturally have this ability.
Disassembly can be achieved in several ways. One uses an assembler in reverse to take the item apart into chemical or elemental components that can be used again or simply discarded. The item could also be designed to be able to biodegrade into harmless components. Another option is to self incinerate or rapidly oxidise the item. When done correctly, this can be a viable option. When done poorly it could be an environmental disaster.
Douglas Mulhall, author of "Our Molecular Future", points out that although it is possible and necessary to develop a “Law of Disassembly” that ensures every MNT product must be disassemblable by at least one such pathway, our current primitive non-MNT nanotechnologies already create products that are not able to be disassembled by such methods.