EPA Letter & GRN Conference Call

Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:19:29 -0500

TO GRN Steering Cmtee
FROM Bill Sheehan Friday 8/30/96

RE EPA Letter Action
RE Conference Call THURSDAY, SEPT 5TH, 3PM EST, NOON PST (tel # forthcoming)

This is it! Below is the third draft of the EPA letter. It is much changed
from what was faxed by Lance, but incorporates comments from Neil,
Brenda, Gary and myself. Please comment to me by WEDNESDAY (9/4),
8 PM EST. I will incorporate and get revised version out that night, for
discussion the following day.

(I am backing off from advocating the zero waste by 2010 message at this
initial stage in order to get maximum buy-in. The zero waste by 2010
message can be developed and circulated separately now as a trial
message, and can be adopted by the winter organizing conference if that is
where the energy is.)

Agreeing on the letter, sending it out, and making follow-up calls to our
selective list is CRITICAL to getting our momentum going for Pittsburgh.
This will create the buzz that will get us rolling in Pittsburgh. Lance also
plans to do a press release just before the Congress to generate more

Each of us should PERSONALLY email or fax the letter (after we get final
agreement) to our 12 people on THURSDAY or FRIDAY (8/5 or 8/6), and
then follow up early the next week. I now think we need to take the
document with 20 to 40 (or more) signatures of key, respected activists to
the convention, rather than hitting those folks up during the convention.
Having the letter with the key names in hand will allow us to hit the
ground running.

We can broadcast a shorter, model letter on email (greenyes) a few days
before the convention, asking people to send letters and copy back to us.
This serves a different function.

RE CONFERENCE CALL We also need to discuss plans for Pittsburgh.
Rick has proposed anm idea for the presentation. I think it would be
optimal to develop several (3 to 5?) different hands-on activities to get
people immediately involved in the GRN during the Tuesday meeting.
Give 20 or 25 minutes to a presentation, then go to the corner that interests
you. Ideas: Getting involved in local campaigns (Lance); Policy
discussion (Rick?); Organizing GRN reach-out to activists; developing a
campaign around influencing the EPA goal; organizing the winter
organizing conference (Gary?). By the way, we have to be out of the room
at 5:30 so it can be cleaned by 6:00.

Other last minute items to discuss?


The Honorable Carol Browner, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Ms. Browner:

We are writing to support a review of the national goal for recycling,
which EPA Assistant Administrator Elliott Laws announced is under
consideration. Mr. Laws stated in June that EPA is considering a new
national goal of 35% recycling by the year 2005.

We applaud EPA for setting a national goal, but we urge EPA to set a
waste elimination rather than a recycling goal, and to set a far more
ambitious goal. Specifically, we call for 50% or greater per capita
reduction of waste by the year 2005, and for the eventual elimination of
waste altogether.

The undersigned individuals and organizations are all engaged in efforts
to eliminate waste. Most of us have experience that demonstrates that
waste reduction is achievable, that high rates are possible, and that
numerous benefits flow from public and private efforts to conserve
resources rather than waste them in landfills and incinerators. The goal
of eliminating waste is both attainable and beneficial for our families,
our communities, and our future.

* Set a waste elimination rather than a recycling goal - While we
strongly endorse setting a national goal, we urge EPA to change its focus
to eliminating waste - all waste -- rather than recycling. Eliminating
waste is a more appropriate goal from environmental and economic

The efforts of 100 million recyclers over the past decade have made a
great difference. The rapid increase in wasting since 1960 has slowed
and has even started to decline. This is a major accomplishment. But we
are still wasting (burning and burying) far more than is sustainable. Our
level of wasting is the highest in the industrialized world; focusing only
on recycling rates obscures this fact.

Establishing and achieving waste elimination rates and goals, on the
other hand, requires increased waste prevention, reuse and composting,
as well as traditional recycling, besides being far easier to track. In the
long run, seriously pursuing waste elimination goals will increase reuse,
recycling and composting because these practices compete directly with
wasting for the same supply of resources.

We also request that EPA work to revise Subtitle D of the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to require that landfills protect
groundwater for as long as wastes remain a threat. Today's landfilling
regulations transfer the economic, public health and environmental
burdens associated with groundwater pollution to future generations.
They also postpone pressure on society to develop viable long-term
discard management alternatives.

RCRA needs to be updated to require the full costs for perpetual
maintenance of 'dry tomb' landfills are paid by those who create waste
by mixing and burying used resources. Elimination of landfills -- and
incinerators -- should be our national goal.

* Set an ambitious waste reduction goal - Based on empirical data
from programs developing across the nation, we believe that a much
more ambitious national goal is warranted as we enter the 21st century.
Dozens of large and small communities across the nation have already
succeeded in diverting more than 35% of their 'waste' from landfills.
California has exceeded 25% waste reduction and is aiming for 50%
reduction by 2000. In the private sector, some companies have already
reported reducing their 'garbage' by as much as 80 to 90% in ways that
are cost effective.

One of the most important pieces of evidence that our nation can do
more to eliminate waste is the phenomenal public support for recycling.
More than 100 million Americans demonstrate their commitment daily
by recycling. More Americans recycle than vote.

The growth of recycling has defied all predictions. When EPA was
created in 1970 very few communities provided easy and convenient
opportunities for the public to recycle. In 1970 there were only two
curbside recycling programs and in 1996 there are over 7,000. The
majority of those programs were created since 1990.

By 1980 we reached a 10% recycling rate and many in the waste disposal
industry claimed that was the limit. A few years later some critics
claimed that 25% recycling was the limit. Today Americans are beyond
this artificial, self-serving 'limit.'

* Waste reduction has numerous benefits - Waste prevention, reuse
and recycling offers tremendous economic, social and environmental

Just processing recyclables creates about ten times more net jobs than
landfilling or incinerating the same materials. Manufacturing from these
materials can create 60 times the number of jobs compared with
landfilling or incinerating discards.

The huge job creation benefits of reuse and recycling have both social as
well as economic significance. At a time when our social fabric seems to
be unravelling, increasing use of our human capital in businesses that
conserve our natural capital is sound public policy.

Environmentally, the greatest benefits from reduction, reuse and
recycling come at the front end of the manufacturing process. These
material conservation strategies save wilderness, reduce the pressures to
despoil diverse wildlife habitat and old growth forests, and reduce the
energy use and massive air and water pollution impacts of extracting,
refining and transporting raw materials. Environmental benefits are also
gained from reducing reliance on burning and burying waste.

* How to increase recycling and reduce wasting - Recycling will
increase and wasting will decrease by eliminating policies and subsidies
favoring garbage collection, landfilling and incineration. Local
governent contracts limiting competition by granting exclusive
franchises to waste haulers must be ended and clear public policies
supporting fees for recycling and composting services must be allowed.

Recycling, reuse and composting will also increase by eliminating
taxpayer subsidies for extracting natural resources (such as metals,
petroleum and timber). Each year, for instance, hundreds of millions of
taxpayer dollars go to pay for logging roads on public lands, and often
trees are sold below market value. Outdated laws allow companies to
plunder public lands for precious metals for only a token fee - such as
the Canadian company that recently was given title to billions of dollars
worth of gold on our public land while returning virtually nothing to the
U.S. Treasury.

Until welfare for wasting resources is eliminated, we believe that
governmental action is necessary to 'level the playing field' so that
recycling, composting and reuse are not put at a competitive


Ample evidence from polls and empirical data from many communities
demonstrates that the American public is predisposed to recycle if
government and industry meet them half way. By establishing a goal of
50% waste reduction by the year 2000 and 90% by 2010, EPA will send a
signal that America is committed to creating jobs where they are most
needed, and intends to become the world leader in harnessing the
economic, social and environmental benefits of resource conservation.

Please enter these comments into your formal record concerning the
proposed national recycling goal.


100 million Americans

DRAFT 08/30/96