Re: Zero Waste Articles
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:11:24 -0500

Dave, FYI. Martha Ezzard is a senior editor of the Atl Jrnl Constitution, and
an acquaintance of Jennie's. --bill

Reply to: RE>Zero Waste Articles
Thanks Jennie. Interesting. I will forward them to our Perspective Editor,
Lea Donosky.

Date: 12/12/96 6:30 PM
To: Martha Ezzard
From: jennie.alvernaz
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Subject: Zero Waste Articles


The attached series of articles on zero waste goals for Durham NC is
extremely interesting. Could this be considered for reprinting in a
Sunday Perspective piece? It could be adapted for Georgia, if necessary.
There will be legislation concerning Georgia waste reduction goals
introduced this session.


By David Kirkpatrick
First in series
Reprinted with permission of the Herald-Sun Newspaper--
Published 12/8/96
Editor's note: this is the first of a three part Forum Page series
concerning ways Durham might reach the goal of zero waste for the
next century. Author David Kirkpatrick, a founder and former
director of SunShares, is the president of KirkWorks, a recycling
and environmental economic development firm based in Durham.

Durham's public officials are facing a dilemma similar to that faced
by many of us in the polling booth -- choosing the lesser of two
evils. Do we build a new landfill in Durham or do we construct a
transfer station and ship our waste to an out-of-county landfill?

I propose we consider a third alternative -- building the public and
private infrastructure for near total recycling of Durham's
discarded materials and pursuing a zero waste goal for the next
century. By "total recycling" I mean waste prevention, recycling,
composting, repairing or reusing all discarded materials.

As a nation, we recently exceeded 25% recycling, a level many
skeptics called impossible a few years ago. Now, several cities are
achieving nearly 50% diversion from landfills, including Seattle,
San Jose, Minneapolis, ST. Paul and Takoma Park in Maryland.
Canberra, the capital of Australia, has set a zero waste goal by 2010.

Here in North Carolina, the state legislature has established a goal
of 40% per capita waste reduction by June 30, 2001. By working
with big industrial generators, some rural counties have already
exceeded the goal, including Northampton (54% per capita waste
reduction) , Richmond (51%) and Stokes (49%). Alamance County,
including Burlington, reports 35 % waste reduction, achieved in
part by a landfill ban on a wide range of recyclable commodities, in
conjunction with a comprehensive recycling program.

Durham has also made much progress -- achieving 11 % per capita
waste reduction from 1988 to 1995 -- the best record of NC's six
most populous counties, according to the state's solid waste
management report. We have achieved this through some of the
state's first recycling and composting programs, instituted around
1990, combined with higher landfill tipping fees. However, with the
right investments, public policy, and civic and business leadership,
we could move towards 100% reduction of our mixed waste
disposal in the next few years.

Many companies are already striving for and have nearly achieved
zero emissions and zero waste, such as Hewlett Packard in CA,
Interface Carpets in GA, Wellmark Corp. in Asheboro, and Main
Street Cafe in Durham. These companies are working to achieve
higher profitability by eliminating environmental liabilities and
often generating new scrap product revenues.

Why pursue zero waste? Because disposal of mixed solid waste is
inherently dangerous to the environment and public health --
whether handled in landfills, incinerators, pyrolysis plants, mixed
waste composting or other "black box" garbage processing facilities.
When we mix our refuse together, we unfortunately sometimes
include batteries, waste oil, pesticides, chemicals, and other toxics
that will eventually contaminate groundwater, the air, or the soil.
By providing opportunities to separate and recycle all of our
discarded materials, hazardous materials will have "nowhere to
hide" in mixed garbage containers and will have to be reduced at
the source, recycled, or treated separately.

Beyond public health and environmental concerns, we are losing
economic opportunities by burying our discarded material. A waste
stream analysis generated by the state estimates that the paper,
glass, aluminum and steel cans and #1 PETE and #2 HDPE bottles
in Durham County's "trash" would be worth about $3.9 million
dollars if all were recovered and sold to recycling processors -- yet
we are currently recovering only about one-fifth of these

If we attracted or started manufacturing businesses that not only
processed our scrap materials but made new products -- such as
glass tiles, molded fiber packaging, cellulose insulation, or plastic
containers -- the local sales revenues and job creation would be that
much greater. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates that
processing recyclable materials generates ten times more jobs on a
per ton basis than landfilling, while recycling-based paper mills
and plastics manufacturers employ 60 times more workers than do
landfills. Especially with upcoming welfare reform and the recent
loss of two manufacturing employers in downtown Durham, these
manufacturing jobs could offer new employment to citizens of our
inner city neighborhoods.

"Zero waste!" Is this a crazy goal or a prudent strategy for the
future? If I have persuaded you that a zero waste goal could make
sense as an environmental and economic development strategy for
Durham, your next question might be "How can we do it?" and "Is
it affordable?" In my next column, I will note that if we can separate
our discarded materials into a few reusable, recyclable, and
compostable streams, there are companies interested in profitably
recovering nearly all of our materials. In the third and final column,
I will suggest some immediate next steps to move Durham towards
total recycling and away from reliance on either local or out-of-
town landfills.


By David Kirkpatrick

Second in a series
Reprinted with permission of the Herald-Sun Newspaper--
Published 12/9/96

Achieving zero waste and full materials recovery from homes and
businesses in Durham will require new thinking, new policies, and
new businesses. We currently often mix all of our discarded
materials together and call them "garbage", "trash", or "solid waste."
When we mix different commodities together in our garbage cans,
dumpsters, packer trucks, and landfills we lose their inherent value
had they been kept separated at the source.

It would be like taking all of the food out of our refrigerators and
cupboards and throwing it all in a big boiling pot together -- who
would want the mess? However, if we take each ingredient out
separately and prepare it according to a recipe we can be sure that
at least someone in the household will eat it.

So, too, with almost all of our discarded materials. If we keep them
separated in a few reasonable categories, recycling entrepreneurs
will be eager to process or manufacture them into new products.
The NC Environmental Business Study released in July 1996
identified 586 recycling companies in the state, with $945 million in
sales and 8,970 employees. These companies are involved in
collecting, processing, reusing, composting and remanufacturing a
wide range of materials.

In Durham, these companies include Automotive Waste Recycle,
Bakery Feeds, BFI, Building Supply Recycling Center, Durham
Scrap Metal, Orange Recycling Services, Paper Stock Dealers,
Reynolds Aluminum, S. Swartz & Sons, SunShares, Waste
Industries and Waste Management.

By declaring a zero waste goal and instituting the policies and
infrastructure to achieve the goal, Durham can help these ventures
to grow and encourage more companies to relocate or start-up in
the city. Instead of investing most of our public funds in solid
waste collection containers, fleets, transfer stations, and landfills,
we should build the infrastructure to foster these sustainable

For example, West Virginia's Solid Waste Management Board
commissioned Urban Ore, Inc. to develop designs for an Integrated
Resource Recovery Facility (IRRF). The IRRF is designed as a
"reverse shopping center" with several recovery businesses leasing
space as tenants. Each of these businesses specialize in recovering
one or more of the "clean dozen" master categories of discarded
material, as defined by Urban Ore: reusable goods, paper, plant
debris, food scraps, woods, ceramics (brick, concrete, etc.), soils,
metals, glass, plastics, textiles, and chemicals.

Durham's local governments could play a role in fostering the
development of an IRRF by doing site preparation, installing
shared truck scales, providing business incubator services,
employee training and placement, and providing a flow of source
separated materials from municipal collections. With these
incentives, recycling entrepreneurs would find the IRRF site an
ideal start-up or expansion site. At a minimum, these ventures
would need to include

* recycling processors for cleaning and compacting glass,
metals, paper, plastics and textiles for manufacturing markets

* soil products companies for shredding, composting and
screening plant debris, food waste, soil, and mixed paper

* salvage and reuse firms to receive, organize, and sell reusable
goods and to salvage building materials

* one or more aggregate processors to separate, crush and
screen construction and demolition materials not otherwise

Companies receiving higher value discards, such as reusables,
could accept materials for free (or pay for them) while processors of
lower valued discards such as aggregates could charge a per ton
drop-off fee that would cover processing costs but be less than the
cost of landfill disposal.

Taking this design even farther, plans for Canberra, Australia's zero
waste/100% recovery facility also include space for dozens of small
scale manufacturing companies around the perimeter of the core
tipping and processing areas -- shipping out glassware, fertilizers,
furniture, rebuilt computers, cellulose insulation, plastic lumber
and a host of other products made from recovered materials. An
industrial site like the soon-to-be vacated 150,000 square foot
Golden Belt factory in downtown Durham could be renovated as
an IRRF, providing new manufacturing jobs for central city
neighborhoods and a host of new entrepreneurial opportunities.

The IRRF concept helps us to visualize what is possible. Given the
realities of existing development and businesses, it is likely that a
network of recovery ventures across Durham would also grow and
develop if we put public support behind a full recovery strategy.
However, the centralized and networked recovery locations must
be convenient and affordable for citizens and haulers, so that they
have an economic incentive to separate and recycle their discards.
In the near term, some residual mixed solid waste will be
generated, but high local or out-of-county landfill costs should
strongly discourage wasting and encourage patronage of local
recycling companies. I will suggest some next steps for Durham to
move from a "solid waste disposal system" to a "recovered
materials economy" in my next column.


By David Kirkpatrick

Third in a series
Reprinted with permission of the Herald-Sun Newspaper--
Published 12/10/96

How can we convert our garbage into commodities and jobs in
Durham? By making it easy and cheap to recycle and reduce waste
while difficult and expensive to create waste. In our homes, this
means convenient, weekly collections not only for newspapers,
bottles, cans, leaves, and brush, but also for magazines, junk mail,
office paper, textiles, used oil, reusable goods and food scraps.
With all of these materials collected for recycling and composting,
we should generate very little if any waste for landfilling.

However, household waste is only about one-third of what goes in
the Durham landfill -- the rest comes from businesses, industries,
and universities. Each of these generators also needs convenient
collections of the materials it discards-- paper from offices,
cardboard from retail outlets, food scraps and containers from
restaurants, and specialized scrap materials from industrial

If we institute more comprehensive recycling collections, though,
how can we be sure everyone participates? Some businesses and
homes in Durham already reduce waste and recycle aggressively,
but many still are throwing everything "away". Many communities
have decided to adopt "pay as you throw" fees in which each home
and business pays for the full cost of their solid waste collection
and disposal, based on how much they waste. If one printing
company fills up a garbage dumpster per week, they pay
accordingly, while another printer that recycles all of their paper
scrap avoids the waste fees and sometimes even earns recycling
revenues. At the residential level, pay-as-you-throw programs
need to provide credits for fixed or low income residents to help
assure that the fees do not make the tax structure more regressive.
Everyone has the opportunity to cut waste costs by reducing their
waste at the source and recycling.

Other cities have made recycling a mandatory civic duty -- like
stopping at stop signs. Easy recycling opportunities are provided
for all and all are expected to participate. Homes and businesses
that mix their recyclables into waste containers are generating more
expenses and environmental liabilities and are cited and fined
accordingly. Already, the city has taken this type of initiative with
one material -- cardboard. Businesses are provided with free
cardboard recycling dumpster collections and if commercial
garbage trucks dump waste loads at the landfill including large
amounts of cardboard, they are double charged tipping fees.

If we provide strong economic incentives, civic requirements, and
thorough education, Durham residents will respond by recycling,
composting and reusing more and reducing waste at the source.
But how will we pay for the new recovery efforts? One way would
be to cut back on mixed solid waste collections, once we all have
the opportunity to recover the majority of our materials. In my
household and home office, only about 15% of our discarded
materials goes into the garbage roll out cart, the rest are recycled or
composted. At that rate, once per month mixed waste collection
would be quite sufficient.

Currently, much of the city's revenue to support solid waste and
recycling programs comes from the tipping fees charged at the
landfill, along with property taxes. As of January 1, 1998, state law
will require all unlined landfills, including Durham's, to close. We
will have to find a new way to fund our discarded materials
system. Reduced mixed solid waste collection and disposal costs,
higher recycling and composting revenues, property taxes, and
pay-as-you-throw fees can all be part of the mix to address this
fiscal shortfall. Our new financing plan should provide more
revenue and less expenses as we reduce waste. Unfortunately, we
now have the counter-productive economic incentive to landfill
more so as to collect more tipping fees.

The added benefits of overcoming our reliance on landfills and
fostering a sustainable materials economy can be significant. With
the loss of many cigarette manufacturing jobs, Durham needs new
industries that are accessible to skilled blue collar workers. If we
keep our scrap commodities separate, many new employment
opportunities could be generated in manufacturers using recovered
materials, in repair and reuse shops, in processing plants, in soil
products companies and in collection programs. By realizing that
our "solid waste problem" is really a "commodity manufacturing
opportunity," Durham has the chance to develop a win-win

Achieving zero waste will be a challenge for every household and
business, and especially for Durham as a whole. But what is the
alternative? Accepting the continued community divisiveness,
environmental hazards, and expenses of landfilling? Accepting the
lost economic and employment opportunities of burying valuable
commodities? Surely we can do better. As our parents and
grandparents knew and our children remind us -- We can "waste
not, want not."