Waste Not & What Not

Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:13:52 -0500

[Forwarded from Richard Rust]

Waste Not... Want Not... & What Not is a philosophical and humorous
treatment of the garbage crisis, recycling in the land of conspicuous
consumption, and life in America as inferred from our waste
management practices. The book is based on Randy Bowen's 25 years
of experience in the business of recycling (as in small business) and
Richard Rust's 15 years as an engineer, academic, and state extension
agent involved with siting, designing, and permitting solid waste
facilities (mostly landfills). The book may be ordered by sending $25 to
Richard Rust at 5641 Piper Dr., Fuquay, NC 27526.

Some quotes summarizing issues addressed in the book "Waste Not...
Want Not... & What Not..".

Just as you can learn private and intimate things about someone by
going through his trash, in examining how America manages its waste,
you can also observe addictions and dysfuntion which predict the
demise of the American dream.

The Industrial Age propelled America to the head of the class in
"quality of life". Conspicuous consumption is both the driving force
and the result of the Industrial Age. Unfortunately, from the
perspective of the environment, the relationship between the Industrial
Age and conspicuous consumption is both codependent and

The Industrial Age is drawing to a close, having reached its peak with
putting men on the moon. The result is a belief that all human
problems can be solved with technology. Engineers and consultants
need to stop thinking of themselves as High Priests in the Temple of
Technology. They are merely another tool in toolbox of humanity.
They offer an answer, not "the" answer.

Sadly, conservation and recycling are contrary to the American
birthright of conspicuous consumption.

We increasingly tend toward highly mechanized and sophisticated
waste disposal systems. Little regard is given to the escalating lifetime
costs of maintaining these systems. Little is known of the life span of
the components of these systems. This is particularly onerous with
encapsulation systems, such as lined landfills.

Landfill and incinerator siting battles are so bloody because they
threaten the single largest investment families ever make, their home.
Consequently, waste decisions are made not on the basis of common
sense, but on emotion. No wonder local politicians are loathe to deal
with waste issues. Unfortunately, this leads to delaying waste decisions
until it is too late to address the alternatives so that informed decisions
might be made. Where there is confusion, there is profit. White knights
selling perpetual motion machines come in droves, offering solutions
based not on what is needed, but what is to be avoided (a siting battle).

The stated purpose of environmental regulations is to protect public
health. In practice, regulations are promulgated to protect elected
officials from liability exposure. The two objectives are not often

The death of recycling and other environmental programs comes from:
political indecision (our elected officials will not accept the risk of
having their names associated with "white elephants"), complacency
(out of sight, out of mind mentality and parochial interests keep us
from more responsible methods), and short-term reactionary
profiteering in the private sector or short-term cost reduction in the
public sector (waste program decisions should be based on long-term
community level cost/benefit).

Richard Rust

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