Re: Susan K. Snow
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:54:25 -0500

As a recycler of plastics, and somewhat of an activist, I'd like to put
my two cents worth into this conversation:
First of all there is a small difference in what kind of PETE is used in
a soft drink container, which is blow molded, and one of those clam shells,
which are vacuum formed, they put the organic sprouts into. But both are
just as easy/hard to recycle from a technical point of view. The reason one
is recycled and the other is not has everything to do with bottle bill laws.
You have to remember that bottle bill laws were passed not so much to
recycle or reduce the waste stream but rather to reduce the litter that was
accumulating on the sides of freeways when the returnable bottles went away
in the 60's.
There is no technical reason we could not recycle far far more than we
are, including all that plastic stuff - Even better: There is NO technical
reason we couldn't eliminate a lot of the disposal stream at the beginning by
reintroducing refillables, adding reusables, and minimizing disposables in
tonnage and eliminating disposing of anything that can't be reused, recycled,
composted, or otherwise environmentally converted back into something useful.

As one of the founders of the Zero Waste Movement, and Chair of this
years CRRA conference on Zero Waste, I believe that sooner or later we will
have to do this anyway. Afterall we live on a finite planet with an
exponentially growing population - sooner or later the nonrenewables will be
gone, and we will have to change out ways. The only question is: Will we do
this before we chop down the last old tree or after? Will we do this after
we've burned all of the fossil fuels, and lived with the consequences, or
But to get back to the topic: In my mind the reason for not recycling
more variation of PETE are purely "economic", which means "political". We
have an economic system which heavily discounts future costs, and does not
even take into consideration potential future costs. We have a political
system which allows money to speak louder than public opinion, which leads to
decisions that allow the externalization of costs, and allows the momentum of
large institutions and organizations to remain unobstructed.
For example, there is a lot of talk lately about those big bad evil guys
at Coca Cola and how they are despoiling the planet. Well fact is that they
and the rest of the gang are doing things that most likely will cause big
trouble down the line somewhere, but they are not people! They are
Corporations - they are nothing more than a governmented granted charter
which allows a certain kind of business behaivior to occur. The problem is
that this behavior is basically one that seeks to make a profit, or a return
on investment for its investors. It has no moral values, and is focused on
the singular goal of profit, irregardless of the costs to anyone else. The
people within these organizations are basically good people, just like any
other groups - with a few bad apples I'm sure. But just like any of us, we
do bad things from time to time, and sometimes we walk down those slippery
paths leading us to places we'd really rather not go.
What amazes me are the rationalizations people come up with when
confront with their evil doings! The problem is that we - the voters, the
very people who elect those who govern - have abdicated our duty to look hard
and understand how we are governed. We have allowed the creation of
institutions with rules and goals that need to be tweaked a bit so that they
can only make money by doing good things and not bad ones.
Everything else that we do is but putting a little finger into a huge
dike with many many holes. The whole thing needs to be rethought and
rebuilt.....until we do that - look at the BIG picture - we will not get to
where we wish to go!