GreenYes Digest V97 #81 -Reply

Bill Carter (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:55:52 -0500

Hop writes:

I've just joined the list. I'm from Sydney, Australia, where we have a very
active and successful "Waste Crisis Network", but I'm currently living in
Tokyo, Japan.

In response to the discussion on 'production statistics vs waste
composition studies' ... I agree that there is a great need to measure
product and material flows from the point of production rather than 'us'
having to try to sort out the waste stream for industry.

* The former is in-keeping with the aim of greater industry responsibility
and accountability and (with take-back provisions) is more likely to result
in product and packaging redesign, reuse, and closed-loop recycling.

* The later (ie. relying on waste composition studies) will frustrate
efforts to achieve greater industry responsibility and, as a result,
reprocessing / open-loop recycling activities (happily promoted, to a
limited extent, by industry as 'best practice') will be the best we
achieve. Waste-conscious citizens will remain frustrated.

Could someone provide more detail of the Franklin Associates 'production
waste' analysis (eg. is it accessible via the net) mentionaed at the end of
GreenYes Digest V97 #80? It would be helpful in our moves in this
in Australia.



The question of "production statistics vs. waste composition studies" is
not necessarily a question of either/or. It would certainly be desirable to
have accurate statistics on the actual use of materials in products and
packaging and on the distribution and use of those products & packaging
around the world. However, that is only part of the picture. To take a
micro example -- food service establishments that have experimented
with sorting their discards for recycling and composting have often
found that a surprising amount of reuseable items like silverware had
been going out with the trash. Recovering those items saved the
restaurants more money than recycling and composting the materials
originally targeted. If they had focused entirely on purchasing
information they would not necessarily have known what was becoming
of their silverware -- was it going home with employees, diners, etc.? At
the macro level as well, it is important to know something about what is
going into disposal facilities. Data about products manufactured to date
and where they have gone will never be better than they are now,
which is not very good, and those products will continue to filter into
landfills for many years.
Hop, you mention that you are living in Japan. I read some years ago
that Japan has a system for tracking the retention of manufactured
materials within the production/use cycle. This strikes me as a
particularly wise way to look at the issue -- determining the percentage
of materials needed for production that are coming from recycling vs. the
percentage of raw material inputs, and setting goals for minimizing the
raw material requirements through recovery. That strikes at the heart of
the problem and focuses attention on the front-end solutions of designing
for recycling. If you find out anything about that tracking system please
share it here.
A fascinating idea for how a manufacturer-responsibility system might
work was presented by Trish Ferrand at an National Recycling Congress
session a few years ago -- a system to link data about all packaging to
the bar codes on products, so that a redemption center at a supermarket,
for instance, could scan-in returned packaging of various sorts and
automatically calculate deposit refunds or redemption credits toward
purchases. No weighing materials, no adding, no hassle. Just remember
not to tear across the bar code.
All the best,