Reply to Bruce Nordman
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:21:34 -0500

[forwarded from Richard Kashmanian]

I agree with much of what Bruce Nordman wrote in his July 10 email, "NY Times
Missed Source Reduction" (below I put some of what he said in quotes), namely
that the net environmental and economic benefits of recycling need to be
quantified (i.e., develop a "scientifically compelling case" and/or conduct
"sound analysis") and not only related to landfill space saved. For some time,
I have said this about composting -- there needs to be greater focus on the
benefits from using compost (e.g., improve soil fertility, reduce soil erosion,
release nitrogen slowly, increase nutrient and moisture retention, and suppress
plant diseases). If the only benefit, or primary benefit, of composting
mentioned is to keep materials out of the landfill, I maintain that composting
will not reach its full potential.

However, I disagree with what Bruce said in the last part of his email. As
long as source reduction supporters refer to recycling (and composting) as
"waste disposal management" (a double whammy; again, these are his words, not
mine), I expect that there will not be a "concerted effort" (I assume this
effort would be by supporters of source reduction, composting, and recycling)
to "develop theory and practice that lead to wiser materials production, use,
[reuse,] and disposal". I believe Bruce is being overly optimistic about a
"concerted effort" coming together with the way he views and alienates himself
from recycling (and composting). That is, he not only thinks of recycling (and
composting) as "disposal," but he also groups it(them) in with combustion and
landfilling. As I mentioned in my 6/19 email about the words we use, I
recently spoke to nine companies who operate over 20 compost facilities -- they
want the focus to be on their end product and do not want their process or
service to be referred to as "disposal", nor do they want their compost
feedstock referred to as "waste". Source reducers should be working with
recyclers and composters, not against them, and vice versa.

If Bruce wants source reduction to increase, then his advice to recyclers (and
composters) should also be followed by source reduction advocates -- develop a
"scientifically compelling case" or conduct "sound analysis" -- rather than
resort to shackling recycling (and composting) with name tags that they know
are negative. Review the types of benefits mentioned above from using compost
and you will see examples of source reduction (e.g., prevent erosion and plant
diseases, and reduce applications of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides,
pesticides, and water). To give an idea of how important this is, USDA
estimated that over two billion tons of soil eroded from U.S. cropland in
1992. My analogy is there are different ways to win a race -- you can work and
run hard or you can chain your opponent(s) to the starting line and/or put
extra weights on them. It seems to me that Bruce is resorting to the latter
method. I prefer the former method. Hard work is a faster and more
sustainable way to gain support and respect from your allies and those you
would like to become your allies.

Lastly, I believe that Bruce's view of recycling as "waste disposal management"
supports or is at least consistent with, perhaps unintentionally, the
"Recycling Is Garbage" view -- the words speak for themselves.

Take care,

Richard Kashmanian