GreenYes Digest V96 #21

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Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:12:39 -0500

GreenYes Digest Thu, 14 Nov 96 Volume 96 : Issue 21

Today's Topics:
Addendum to Buy Nothing Day
Comments on draft policy statement for Zero Waste

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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 15:51:52 -0500
From: <>
Subject: Addendum to Buy Nothing Day


Many people have commented that the gesture of Buy Nothing Day is
either futile because it changes nothing, or "Scrooge-like" because it
is one of the biggest pre-Christmas shopping days in the U.S. Might I
suggest that Christmas shoppers consider giving an experience instead
of a gift. Examples are: theatre tickets, massage, movie,
facial/pedicure/manicure, ski trip (I wish!).

Your time and attention given as a gift may be worth more than yet
another unnecessary consumer item. (Just a thought).

Barbara Schaefer, Recycling Coordinator
University of Toronto
6th floor, 215 Huron Street
Toronto, Ont. M5S 1A1 CANADA
phone (416) 978-7080 "The battle for Nature
fax (416) 971-2994 is a battle against
e-mail ourselves."


Date: 13 Nov 96 16:21:40
From: Richard Kashmanian <>
Subject: Comments on draft policy statement for Zero Waste

Thanks for asking for comments on the draft policy statement for Zero
Waste. I've read through the comments posted thus far and have some additional
comments to offer.

1. Waste prevention should include composting and recycling, rather than
exclude them.

It seems that a number of source reduction advocates want to position
composting and recycling as methods of "disposal" or methods to handle
"waste." Referring to source reduction as "waste prevention" (or "waste
reduction") implies that compost and recycling feedstocks are "waste." I view
these as the by-products of landscaping or consumption. Waste prevention and
waste reduction should include composting and recycling. Otherwise, this
becomes problematic to the compost and recycling industries for a number of
reasons -- e.g., economic impacts (e.g., processing costs and product
revenues), product market development, effectiveness of source separation, and
regulatory burdens. Furthermore, the draft policy statement refers to the
"disposal marketplace," "Discards are ... subject to disposal," and "Disposal
includes any method of reuse, recycling, composting, or wasting." By referring
to all of these management methods as "disposal," there is no distinction
between conservation/recovery and burying. I hope I am not the only one
troubled by this choice of words coming from supporters of source reduction,
composting, and recycling.

2. Source separated compost and recycling feedstocks should not be referred to
as "discards".

I believe it is much wiser to share the perspective that the generators of
these used materials have become part of the industrial process -- they are
input suppliers. If we use words such as "discards" to describe these
materials, we imply that the generators are getting rid of these materials and
that the materials have no value. I contend these generators believe that they
are passing these materials along in a production chain. The public already
believes that if they source separate, then they are involved in recycling.
Let's continue this -- it makes no sense to jeopardize it. If we want to
convince the public that these materials have no value and that it is getting
rid of them, we should also expect that the public will mix in materials that
it believes have no value, lowering the value of the feedstocks and end
products and raising the costs of processing. Furthermore, these negative
words will also make it even harder to convince the public to buy the
value-added products made from its used materials. If we want to stress the
role of the public in the market development of compost and recycling, we need
to use a more market-friendly vocabulary.

3. Proponents of resource conservation (source reduction/reuse, and
composting/recycling) should understand marketing principles, in addition to
market development strategies.

If we read product advertisements, including those for products that compete
with compost and recycled products, we will note that they generally do not use
negative words like "waste," "discard," "get rid of," "dispose," etc.
Marketing professionals understand the importance of words -- compost and
recycling professionals need to do the same because they are after all involved
in commerce.


What I have said above should not be interpreted to mean that zero waste is
achieved by not calling anything "waste." What is not reduced/reused or
composted/recycled, can be referred to as "waste" or "discards." I believe
that the "waste" word should be used more selectively -- I tend to use it more
as a verb or adverb.

The draft policy statement seems to put a very high emphasis on tip fees
received by compost and recycling facilities. But, this is only one component
of their income stream -- there are also revenues (as mentioned in the policy
statement) and costs (which we should not be unnecessarily raising by using
words like "waste" and "disposal"). However, there needs to be an emphasis on
producing quality, marketable products. These products must successfully
compete in the marketplace. This point was made clear to me when I spoke to
eight companies that operate over 20 compost facilities -- they don't want
their feedstocks to be referred to as "waste" or the process or service to be
referred to as "disposal." Their emphasis is on producing high quality compost
products -- this is how they believe they will be sustainable.

Additional thoughts:

In Susan Kinsella's email, she said that people often tell her that source
reduction will make us live in caves or destroy the economy. These responses
can be challenged. In some (though obviously not all) cases, source reduction
means the creation of new products or features -- e.g., mulching mowers,
composting bins, low-flow shower heads, toilet dams, non-toxic alternative
products, sweaters, clothing and home insulation, rechargeable batteries, etc.
In other cases where source reduction means you don't buy something, there
seems to be an assumption that the money that would have been spent would
somehow disappear. If it is not spent on that product, it will be spent on
something else or invested. So jobs may be transferred elsewhere. But the
money does not disappear.

In George Dreckmann's email, he said that source reduction and reuse involve
lifestyle changes. But anything new involves lifestyle changes -- going to
school, getting a job, getting married, having a kid, getting a pet, buying a
home, source separating for composting or recycling, etc. I don't understand
this point. Let me give some examples. First, if people cut their grass
clippings and left them on the lawn they would save the time and expense of
bagging the clippings, carrying the bags to their compost pile or curb, and
applications of water and store-bought fertilizers. Second, years ago, a major
company introduced a concentrated detergent in a pouch. When company
representatives spoke about this new package, they said the effort to add water
to the concentrate in a full-sized bottle was a pain. I told the company that
the steps taken are no different than converting frozen juice into a full-sized
container -- buying frozen concentrates is done by millions of consumers. They
should stress that this smaller, lighter, concentrated version of the product
is easier to carry and store. This is what they did when they rolled out the
product nationally. The lesson is that you can take a defeatist position or
you can emphasize the positive.

I believe that two of the impediments to source reduction include how to
measure it and then how to get credit for it. Perhaps this emphasis could also
be included in the policy statement.

Furthermore, with the recent postings in GreenYes about the relative impacts of
extraction/ harvesting, consumption, source reduction, reuse, composting,
recycling, combustion, and landfilling, it seems to me that there is support in
the group to revise how the nation's wealth and well-being are measured --
i.e., an alternative or supplemental approach to how the Gross Domestic Product
is measured -- e.g., develop a natural resource or environmental accounting
system. For example, currently an oil spill shows up as good for the nation's
economy because money is spent on the cleanup but there is no consideration of
the negative attributes from environmental or human health impacts.

Lastly, one of the projects I am currently involved in deals with looking at
procurement arrangements between food processors and farmers, and the various
ways and reasons processors encourage farm adoption of practices that are more
environmentally protective. Encouraging similar types of
procurement/stewardship programs/ efforts may also be advantageous to your Zero
Waste efforts.

Take care,

Richard Kashmanian


End of GreenYes Digest V96 #21