GreenYes Digest V97 #36

GreenYes Mailing List and Newsgroup (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:00:44 -0500

GreenYes Digest Mon, 24 Feb 97 Volume 97 : Issue 36

Today's Topics:
Fwd: Convenience
Fwd: Jerry Taylor's Po-Ed
GRN CAMPAIGNS: The Great Paper Caper (2 msgs)
Pre-Spring Message
This is cute - Env Impact of Computers

Send Replies or notes for publication to: <greenyes@UCSD.Edu>
Send subscription requests to: <greenyes-Digest-Request@UCSD.Edu>
Problems you can't solve otherwise to

Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 15:16:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Fwd: Convenience

I'm forwarding this message from another list, FYI. Please do not reply
to me, I am not the author!



Subject: Convenience
Sent: 2/23/97 8:45 AM
Received: 2/23/97 12:13 PM
From: ASLE,

From: (Jennifer D. Slack)

On Tue, 18 Feb 1997, Michael V. Colpo wrote:

> My experience thus far has indicated that concern <willingness
> to recycle, etc>is a function of convenience. Right now it's fairly
> inconvenient for most people to care.

For those interested, I'd like to recommend a book
Thomas F. Tierney, The Value of Convenience: A Genealogy of
Technical Culture (State University of New York Press, 1993)

I don't know if many people are familiar with this book. It is about
technology not the enviroment per se. But it would be a wonderful project
to connect Tierney's insights to our relationship to the land. I've done
it in classes, but have never written the argument up.

Tierney traces the development of the "value of convenience" and argues
that it is crucial to understanding our current relationship with
technology. The book is a blend of philosophy and political science and
technology studies. In it he traces the development of our modern (U.S.
specifically) commitment to convenience through the Greeks conception of
convenience, Marxist conceptions of consumption, the development of the
West (the U.S. West) as a problem of controlling space and time, its
"spritual" articulation with the rise of Protestantism, and through what
he calls "modern asceticism." The final chapter, on death, discusses our
desire to escape death - but unfortunately does not make the obvious
connection to cyberculture.

One of his main arguments is that convenience in modernity "reflects a
certain contempt for the body and the limits it imposes." We develop
technologies to overcome the limits of the body (limits of time and space)
and seek a certain kind of "ease." Convenience as discussed by
Tierney--with just the tiniest tweek--illuminates some of the complex
historical forces that underlie our quest for consumer goods, our
resistence to conserve, our disdain for "hard work," and our "perceived"
separation from the land.

-Jennifer Daryl Slack


Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 14:05:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Fwd: Jerry Taylor's Po-Ed

I am forwarding a quick response I wrote to the Op-Ed piece in the 2/3/97
Waste Age's Recycling Times written by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor.
Taylor claims that there are no significant subsidies to virgin materials
production and that recycling advocates are grasping out for recycled content
mandates to subsidize recycling which doesn't make economic sense on its own.

This same issue came up in Wa State's Future of Recycling study last year. I
had prepared an incomplete, preliminary list of subsidies to virgin materials
and energy industries based on the EPA's study in 1994 and a few other
sources. Exxon's representative to the Future of Recycling Task Force jumped
all over this list and claimed that there were no subsidies or special
treatment for petroleum. He never supplied any written specifics. I was a
subconsultant to the lead consultant Cascadia, one of whose biggest clients
is the American Plastics Council. Cascadia was not willing to devote
additional project time or budget to pursue the truth on the subsidy issue.
The subsidies list from EPA was even left out of the final report, perhaps
to appease Exxon and the American Plastics Council.

So I'd like to pursue this issue on my own now. It's of course a given that
petroleum, timber and mineral extraction industries were heavily subsidized
during their formative years through depletion allowances, land grants, free
access to federal lands, no constraints on environemtnal damage from resource
extraction, to name subsidies off the top of my head. Think of where the
solar power industry might now be if Regan hadn't eliminated the solar energy
tax credit. All of this to say that the virgin materials industries got to
be gorillas through subsidies and now have the capital to beat up recycling
even if there aren't as many virgin subsidies today as there used to be.

But it would be useful to have a current and complete list of today's
subsides to virgin materials extraction. What I quickly ran up against is
that globalization of the corporation means that US subsidies are now only a
part of the picture. So we need to not only get a complete list for the US
but also for all the other countries of the earth where virgin materials are
extracted. Tall order, huh? Anyone else into this and/or have sources that
I should be gathering info from?

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.-Economics
Sound Resource Management
119 Pine Street, Suite 203
Seattle WA 98101
fax: 206-622-9569
e-mail: or
internet: or www.
Forwarded message:
Subj: Jerry Taylor's Po-Ed
Date: 97-02-22 15:57:03 EST
From: ZeroWaste

A few of the many facts conveniently overlooked by Jerry Taylor's 2/3/97

1. That 40 tons of toxic (by whose defintion?) waste from recycling 100 tons
of ONP would be 100 tons in the landfill with a virtual 100% chance of
leaking into groundwater and/or air at some time in the future (See Dr. G.
Fred Lee's work on how and why all landfills eventually leak). By heavily
discounting the far future when these impacts will occur, some economists
load a preference for present over future generations into the calculation of
the costs of waste disposal.

2. Those studies that say subsidies to virgin materials are inconsequential
ignore governmental expenditures on R&D and on long term management of wastes
from nuclear power; ignore foreign policy and military expenditures to
defend our foreign sources of oil and minerals; and ignore ecosystems impacts
on rivers from hydropower, on forests from clearcutting, on groundwaters and
the earth from mining, and on rivers, lakes, oceans and earth from shipping
petroleum products. Since all virgin materials production is vastly more
energy intensive and ecosystem invasive than manufacturing products with
recycled feedstocks (See for example, my article "Recycling versus
incineration: an energy conservation analysis," Journal of Hazardous
Materials 47, 1996), the failure to fully account for energy subsidies and
ecosystems impacts is a fatal flaw in Taylor's claim that virgin materials
subsidies are inconsequential.

3. Those studies that claim virgin materials subsidies are inconsequential
typically calculate that subsidies amount to only a small percent of total
expenditures or total sales, e.g., Taylor cites an EIA study as showing that
subsidies to the energy industry amount to just 4% of total expenditures by
that industry. But is it expenditures or profits that drive investment and
growth in an industry? Most industries struggle to earn a 5 or 10% profit
on total expenditures (sales). That makes the 4% expenditures subsidy a 40%
to 80% profit subsidy. I'll gladly take an inconsequential 4% of sales
subsidy from the Cato Institute for my recycling business.

4. Taylor cites one economist to back up his claim that "a number of
respected economists" believe environmental externalities of virgin materials
acquisition and production are more than paid for through the cost of
regulatory compliance, i.e., that prices in those industries are if anything
too high! I'd like to see all the names on his list of economists that
support that statement. His claim flies in the face of what most scientists
actually believe, e.g., just review pronouncements from the recent AAAS
meetings here in Seattle. We ignore the contribution of the earth's
ecosystems to our daily lives (oxygen, water, food, to name a few) and are
imperiling them because we are so ignorant about our impacts on those

5. Finally, Taylor has been disingenuous with the statement that 13 of the 50
worst superfund sites are/were recycling facilities. He doesn't tell us
whether they became superfund sites only because of their recycling
activities, he doesn't bother to let us know whether they were involved in
solid as opposed to hazardous waste recycling, and he doesn't tell us how
many of the other 37 were disposal sites or virgin materials production

I don't know any sow who thinks her ears could or should be made into a silk
purse. But every sow I know runs when they see a bull slinging human coming.

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D. - Economics
Sound Resource Management
Seattle, WA

P.S. If you decide to publish this letter and want a signed copy just let me


Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 11:06:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: GRN CAMPAIGNS: The Great Paper Caper

In a message dated 97-02-15 02:24:40 EST, (William
P. McGowan) writes:

<< In short, I think if the GRN is really wanting to work towards more
recycling, you are going to have to figure out a very pro-market
approach. You may not like what the capitalist system created, but look
at how clean our, the USA's, environment is relative to any other
country. Indeed, the countries that tried the opposite of capitalism
are now perhaps the most polluted regions in the globe. Capitalism, in
short, must become part of the envrionemntal movement if the movement is
to survive long term.

Its nice to think that all of recycling's problems were created by mostly
white men sitting in a darkened room drinking hard liquor and smoking
cigars, but it ain't so.


To set the record straight, it is the industrialized Countries (capitalist,
socialist, communists or other) that are wasting resources and polutting the
world. Nobody thinks it is hard liquor drinking cigar smoking white men
who have created our recycling problems any more than anyone thinks that the
environmental movement is a bunch of pot smoking communist dead heads.

However; the real compaint is not left/ right nor capitalist/communist, but
status quo versus change. Most subsidies and tax breaks were created in a
time where there were rich and abundant resources and a small population.
These incentives encouraged the industrial revolution. Today it is large
populations , deminishing resources and hugh amounts of urban waste.

Change todays tax laws to rid the system of virgin material depletion
allowances and subsidies and stimulate demand for recyclables. Eliminating
the false market insentives these tax breaks creates will bring on the market
forces for zerowaste systems.

Yes Bill, the U$A is a market driven economy; and as you know, when people
know about the history of a product; they can use their dollars to vote
whether or not the product deserves economic life. Economic boycotts to
enourage legislative changes to level the playing field is the market
reaction to todays recycling problem, gven the lobbying power of the status



Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 17:48:39 -0600
From: Jim McNelly <>
Subject: GRN CAMPAIGNS: The Great Paper Caper wrote:

> However; the real compaint is not left/ right nor capitalist/communist, but
> status quo versus change. Most subsidies and tax breaks were created in a
> time where there were rich and abundant resources and a small population.
> Change todays tax laws to rid the system of virgin material depletion
> allowances and subsidies and stimulate demand for recyclables. Eliminating
> the false market insentives these tax breaks creates will bring on the market
> forces for zerowaste systems.

Hi Rick and fellow zero waste advocates,

Being one of the resident composting advocates on this list, I thought I
would take this opportunity to offer a different perspective on the
subsidy, market, and resource issue as it pertains to paper products.

A major problem that recyclers have in a market based economy is the
fact that paper recycling mills are very expensive to build, often
costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The generally lower quality of
mixed recycled fiber compared to virgin fiber requires additional stages
of processing and often results in lower value products, which impacts
operating costs as well. To compensate for these capital and operating
realities, it is in the interest of the investor to ensure that the
supply of recycled fiber is at a state of perpetual glut, meaning a
price for recycled paper below virgin pulp, so that the net cost of
operating recycling mills is an investment that promises a relatively
higher rate of return.

To control the marketplace, investors in paper recycling mills will wait
until the supply of recycled paper is at a high enough level to justify
the new facility. If their timing is right, there will be enough of a
new demand to pique the interest of recycling officials with short term
high prices, which ensures more curbside recycling, which soon results
in another long term oversupply, which then causes our current and often
repeated condition of depressed markets.

I admit that this scenario is oversimplistic and largely theoretical,
nor do I have the data showing when mills are built and how this
parallels the price cycles. But the fact remains that the forces
promoting recycling do not control the end markets because they do not
have control of the recycling mills. Aside from the limited cellulose
insulation and animal bedding markets, there are few other options on
the horizon that suggest a decentralized, low capital intensive outlet
for recycled fiber. Except of course for composting.

Lets be frank. The recyclers have not exactly been the best of allies
with the composters. The Environmental Defense Fund has taken an openly
hostile position on composting paper, and even of most composting
options in general, aside from home composting. The Audubon Society has
been a notable exception, promoting the composting infrastructure in its
"Compost for Earth's Sake" program. But even Audubon successfully
lobbied the Source Separated Composting Symposium in 1992-3 to place
"composting with paper" on a level in the new waste management hierarchy
lower than "source separated composting" but above "mixed waste"

The problem runs even deeper. It was not until the 1990s that the
National Recycling Coalition recognized the equal, if not larger role of
composting vs conventional recycling in the long term goal of landfill
abatement. Some states like Minnesota do not allow composting or source
reduction from mulching and home composting to be used as a credit for
counties in their waste reduction quotas. California allows compost
from yard trimmings to be used as landfill cover in its "landfill
abatement" goals of AB939, further discrediting composting as a resource
recovery option.

Now to my point. If composting were allowed to divert more paper from
the landfill, even if it meant reducing the amount of paper available
for recycling, it would have several positive environmental impacts.

The first is that local resource management officials would have greater
control over the amount of fiber available to be sent to the paper
recycling mills. If supplies drop, the prices will go up. We only need
to hold the cartel together and have the dicipline to keep sufficient
paper in the composting infrastructure to maintain high prices.

The second is that centralized source separated composting would have a
significant new source of raw materials, which would make the collection
and or separation of other clean organics such as food residuals more
economical. Composting will not mature as an industry on leaves, brush,
and grass clippings alone. It needs food products, biosolids and paper
mixed together in order to balace nitrogen with carbon, and moisture
with dry materials, and produce economcially viable compost products.

But the third and perhaps most significant point is that shifting a
large percentage of paper fiber from the recycling marketplace to the
composting industry will mobilize communities to work more cooperatively
with the commercial sector and generate larger quantities of humus and
soil amending products. Right now, commercial waste is typically
managed in a totally different way than residential. The two need to
start sharing the composting infrastructure in more cooperative ways.

The result of this proposed shift in the direction of fiber management
will result in higher prices for recycled paper, more high grade paper
being recycled, more low grade fiber being composted, larger composting
facilities, more efficiently run composting sites, and more material
being diverted from the landfill than at present.

Renewable carbon, humus, is to the sustainable civilization what fossil
carbon has been to the industrial civilization. We are only kidding
ourselves if we think that we can replenish topsoil without a greater
conversion of the organic matter percentage of the solid waste stream
being diverted into soil rehabilitation.

Rounded out, organic matter is at least 70% of the solid waste stream,
and paper is 40% of the solid waste. How we manage the vast reservoir
of paper is the challenge facing us in the resource recovery industry as
we look toward the goal of zero waste disposal. I suggest that
composting paper, particularly fiberboard and box fibers, even if it
appears to cost more in some economic models than recycling, is an
environmentally acceptable option that needs to be included in strategic
resource planning. Simply stated, composting IS recycling.

Forget the myths of toxic inks and heavy metals. North American paper
is as safe to compost and use in the garden and on farmland as any other
readilly available organic resource. With a subsequent shift in
renewable fiber cultivation to marginal farmland, composting can
actually result in fewer trees being cut for paper production as well.
Is paper recycling back into paper really a higher environmental value
than promoting sustainable agriculture and organic farming? I don't
think so and with the coming climatic changes due to excess atmospheric
carbon, carbon in the humusphere may determine the fate of sustainable
communities. We all have to eat, and we have to kick our chemically
dependent agriculture addiction sooner or later.

So what about it? Are you tired of low fiber prices and markets
dictated by investment bankers? Are you ready to help form a paper
cartel to drive up fiber prices by diverting paper into the humusphere?
If any group is capable of impacting paper supply and direction options,
it is the members of this list and our colleagues. Let us at least
start with marginal fiber and boxboard, and let the marketplace
determind the direction of newsprint.

I look forward to your comments.

Jim~ McNelly       
NaturTech Composting Systems, Inc.   320-253-6255 
Information on Composting and Sustainable Futures
The Humusphere           HTTP://


Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 16:33:37 -0500 (EST) From: Subject: Pre-Spring Message

Pre-spring Dream

If you say, think, or believe, that there are 100 million people in this country who recycle, then you know in your heart of hearts, that there must be at least 10 million recycling activists out there. If more people recycle than vote, are most recyclers voters? If the oil, chemical, timber, plastic, companies own Sacramento, where are the people?

After more than 25 years of sitting at the table and talking about resource conservation and recycling, the extraction, manufacturing and packaging industries have determined that there is no constituency for recycling in the USA. The past agreements to build a recycling infrastructure are being reneged and ignored; and virgin feedstock continues to be used to make products for today's consumer society.

And what can we do? We must work and care for the children, make the boss happy, and fit in the neighborhood. But what about the future; the new millennium our children will inherit. And yet, the secret in the ZERO WASTE revolution is economic and political power. Don't elect them if they ignore our issues. Don't buy or use their products. Either they will change their ways or they will have less buyers.

Support the Presidents plan to pay for job retraining. Instead of having no choice but producing products that waste resources, become trained for a job in a industry that has efficiency and zero waste.

We are all the GRN. Recyclers from all walks of life. Ten million recycling activists who want to mobilize recycling's dormant political and economic power.

My view of the GRN is that a network can facilitate the transformation to a zero waste economic system. A system where discards are used for feedstock for other products, producing jobs and added value to the original resource. An economic system where the tax law and other laws are used to reward conservation and life sustaining products, and to discourage polluting and resource depleting activities. A political system where the government will and does not ever encourage industry that eliminates the future, disables the present and obliterates the past.

The Grassroots Recycling Network with support from the Turner Foundation, CRRA, ILSR, Sierra Club, and a steering committee and advisory committee of recycling activists from around the USA; will convene all grassroots organizations involved with the environment to ratify and plan the mobilization of recyclers into a political and economic force for a zero waste world.

The struggle for environmental controls,that began for many in the seventies, has exhausted the existing channels for change. Working within the system, has brought about demonstrations of zero waste systems, education to youth who are now voters and parents, and some minor legislative changes. Today's negative recycling hit piece articles are received by the general public in outrage.

The Grassroots Recycle Network is an e-mail/listserve* forum. There is the possibility for the communication of a nationwide planned, local action to a network of environmental activists; to raise the issues of ZERO WASTE, JOBS NOT WASTE, and END SUBSIDIES FOR CORPORATE WASTING. A means to plan national actions that occur locally through out the nation at the same time and day. What if a hundred million reyclers were to turn off their T.V. sets at the same time at prime time. The economic potential and political implications are hopeful.

There is not time to argue the pros or cons of recycling, nor is it time to convince anybody who hasn't made up their mind. In the case of preserving life on the planet, political cynics and economic whores are obstructions to survival. The discussion should be how and when.

As the population grows and the resources on this planet decrease there is an equal and opposite reaction in that knowledge, information and communication are increasing at a faster geometric rate. Linking the survival networks together for united political and economic actions is what is needed to influence political opinion and practice to conserve the planets resources.

* Send to: (In the text box type: subscribe Greenyes )

Recycle this to a friend.



Date: Sun, 23 Feb 1997 17:25:33 -0700 From: (Carolyn Chase) Subject: This is cute - Env Impact of Computers

To demonstrate the resource consumption involved in computer production, Corporate Watch teamed up with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to build a "virtual computer." A person navigating the web only has to click on a certain part of this computer and a list of the waste created in the production process appears. <>


End of GreenYes Digest V97 #36 ******************************