GreenYes Digest V97 #289

GreenYes Mailing List and Newsgroup (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:03:33 -0500

GreenYes Digest Sat, 29 Nov 97 Volume 97 : Issue 289

Today's Topics:
This is a story about recycling
This is a story about recycling of which many of us are

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: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 01:44:24 -0600
From: Susan Snow <>
Subject: This is a story about recycling

Let me me clear. When I posted the story about recycling (Recycling -
Not So Green to its Neighbors by David Bacon) which came from PeaceNet,
I did so not to criticize the recycling concept. I recall that recycling
came in after citizen activists defeated a major garbage incinerator in
Los Angeles, known as the LANCER Project. Furthermore, I know how
difficult it is to locate even a small MRF that separates, bales and
sends materials to market.

My community's local MRF employees many people because it is basically
hands-on with simple machinery --bob-cats and bailing equipment. Still,
it is still very noisy and dirty --despite efforts to keep the area
clean. When people bring in mixed waste (that have no market for
recycling) after hours, that garbage has to be baled and sent to the
landfill. Until, there is a full truck, the baled garbage sits on the
premise. Costs and pollution rise to the MRF-- whether it is run by a
non profit, or for profit corporation--when non-recyclable, mixed waste
is dropped off.

My concern is that some companies are using the recycling concept and
making recycling even more dangerous. For example, a business located
in Bedford, Massachusetts promotes that it is ''developing and
commercializing equipment and systems to recover valuable materials from
increasing volumes of papermaking sludge generated by plants that
produce virgin or recycled pulp and paper. Its subsidiary transforms
papermaking sludge into 'dust-free, organic granules' that are currently
sold as carriers for agricultural chemicals.''

Environmental activists in Wisconsin publicized USEPA data on the
chemical contents of the sludge collected by the subsidiary of the
Massachusetts company from their local paper company which delinks for
recycling purposes. A year's worth of the dried sludge contains 301
pounds of styrene, 287 pounds of 2,4,6-trichlorophenol, 1921 pounds of
naphthalene, 5629 pounds of bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, 5814 pounds of
chromium, 1643 pounds of lead, 33 pounds of mercury, 122 pounds of
thallium, 278,897 pounds of zinc, and so on.

Other compounds identified in the sludge are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (the most
potent of the dioxins), 2,3,7,8-TCDF (a dibenzo furan) and a
range of chlorinated phenols, chlorinated catechols, chlorinated
guaiacols, and chlorinated benzaldehydes. Toxic soup.

Imagine the air emissions, the poisoned soil, and the potentially
poisoned waters when this toxic sludge is dried and made into secret
carriers for agricultural chemicals and used as such. Imagine, even
more when these recycled agricultural chemicals are spread on farms and
back yard gardens.
Will it matter when your children are impacted? I recently bought
potting soil, that when opened looked more like sludge from incinerator
ash. It killed my plants. Now I make my own potting soil from the
composting of vegetation in my backyard.

In addition, in my community, public officials brought a recycler. How
naive we were. This recycler reclaims catalysts from hazardous wastes
using combustion. The ash residue is dumped into ponds on the premise.
Will they leak eventually into our sole source aquifer? Good chance.
Furthermore, air emissions from the incinerator (which burns hazardous
wastes from Africa) impact our air, despite being invisible. Because
the firm claims to recover the catalysts, it is classified as a
recycler. Who benefits from this practice? Not the community. It is the

Other companies are collecting household hazardous wastes for
recycling. How are those wastes recycled? They are mixed with used
motor oil and sold to cement kilns or businesses in Texas and elsewhere
for cheap fuel.

Is recycling and municipal solid waste, sewage sludge (biosolids)
composting like landfills and incinerators? They take toxics from one
community and dump it into the environment of another, poorer community?

With all said, I still support source separation for recycling and
composting. But, we (the public) need to know and understand that even
with recycling and composting, when toxics go down the drain, they go
into the sludge; when no longer needed items become trash or when
manmade products are recycled or composted --they impact other
communities have been reclassified industrial. And, despite
environmental regulations, pollution is not stopped --it is permitted.

There is no perfect solution. Even when glass is pulverized, air
emissions are created. These sparkling bits of dust also contain the
hormone disrupting element, lead. If tiny bits of glass were not bad
enough for the lungs, lead also impacts.

Until we can get avoid our modern consumption practices, pollution is
created for again and again --it is transported from wealthier
communities to the poor. We are not cleaning up, we are spreading
pollution further and impacting more and more children, communities, and

Having said this, perhaps we should consider others before we make
purchases, with Christmas around the corner. We all live down wind
or down stream. Our health and especially that of our children, is at

Susan Snow


Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 12:58:50 -0800 (PST)
From: Boston CWA 486 <>
Subject: This is a story about recycling of which many of us are

Susan S:
I don't think the main issue in the article you quote is "what is
recycling". (We will never agree on an unambiguous definition, and I have a
different view of your distinctions/examples.) Large-scale recycling tends
to be industrial, and can readily be done badly. It would be a shallow,
oblivious fantasy to imagine that recycling is automatically "clean" - and
doesn't match the real world experiences of recycling volunteers. It can
easily have worse direct abutter impacts than "well-run"
landfills/incinerators. Done badly enough, it could even be a worse
neighbor than the production facilities it hopes to displace.
This does not detract fundamentally from the value of recycling.
The justification for recycling is that we hope it to be better for the
environment, on the whole, than the likely alternatives. But it will only
be a good neighbor if it is sited well, designed well, managed well,
operated well, and regulated well -- like all other industrial processes.
I oppose dirty MRFs and MSW composting because the quality of
materials produced seems inevitably tending to be unnecessarily low,
compared to source-separated processing systems. Other than that, any such
process could be a minimal direct human hazard to surrounding bystanders, if
executed responsibly.
But there is a real tradeoff at issue here. We are used to a
materials flow depending on immense primary industrial production facilities
-- which are also immense polluters, but tend to be "elsewhere". If we
"close the loop" in urban areas, we are importing jobs and increasing
transport/energy efficiency, but also naturally tending to import associated
pollution risks. Can we do this carefully enough; if we do, is it still
There is more than one kind of "social injustice" to consider.
Urban areas export their waste to urban areas, in some ways avoiding the
consequences of their lifestyle. To continue such material flows by choice
to avoid local impacts could also be immoral?
Cetainly, preventing waste is best. Very hard to do on a large
scale, and very hard to measure in ongoing ways comparable to other waste
management tools.
Keith c/o
total recycling - zero waste
W.Rox/Boston, MA USA

At 11:59 PM 11/27/97 -0600, Susan Snow wrote:
>Recycling is not so green to its neighbors, but is it greener than the
>alternatives. Maybe, we should be clearer what is recycling.
>Obviously, cleaning up soil by thermal oxidation is not recycling --it's
>incineration. Nor is cleaning up soil via composting --it is spreading
>toxics around. People are becoming ill and dying near muncicipal solid
>waste composting plants.
>I suggest that the best way to protect all persons is to PREVENT waste
>by reducing consumption.
>Susan Snow
> Recycling - Not So Green to its Neighbors
> By David Bacon
>**HUNTINGTON PARK, CA (7/28/97) - Recycling has an
>environmentally-friendly image, especially in Los Angeles, where
>commodity consumption is a secular form of worship. Any vision of a
>sustainable future here at least mandates the reuse of the basic
>materials of everyday life. That makes recycling the city's big growth
>Twenty years ago, when LA drew up its master plan, the industry hardly
>existed at all. Today big industrial facilities are mushrooming,
>collecting and processing glass, metal and concrete. The most
>recently-opened plant recycles dirt, burning it to rid it of its
>petroleum residues.
>But low-income people living in southeast Los Angeles have a hard time
>seeing recycling's green image. Their problem? They live near the
>"There's always glass in the air here," complains Mercedes Arambula.
>Arambula's home is catty-corner from the huge Container Recycling
>facility on Leota Street in Walnut Park. Huge mounds of broken glass
>rise to twice the height of an adult in the Container Recycling yard.
>Skip loaders constantly fill open truck trailers with it. From their
>huge scoops glass pours down in a dusty stream.
>"I've lived here 18 years," she says. "My kids have asthma now, and my
>littlest one, who's 1 1/2, is always sick. I won't even let them play in
>the yard anymore. The trees around my house have all died anyway."
>A neighbor, Ana Cano, wipes her finger across the windshield of a parked
>van in front of her house, coated with a thick layer of dust. Rubbing it
>between her fingers, it sparkles and feels grainy. "Little by little,
>we're breathing this in," she says. "I feel like my lungs are filling up
>with glass."
>A little further down Alameda Street, the main corridor of the city's
>industrial heartland, Alameda Street Metal Recycling crushes used cars,
>trucks and metal appliances. These hunks of used metal travel to Long
>Beach, and then on container ships to the other side of the Pacific,
>fueling a global economy of trash.
>The driveways and walls of the homes of Epifania Oliveria and Thelma
>Diaz are cracking as the earth shakes from the bone-jarring thump of the
>metal crusher. A thin film of oil coats their yards, and little metal
>granules push up through the skin rashes of neighborhood children. When
>the women brought their complaints to city authorities, they were
>defeated by the most local laws of all - zoning regulations.
>In balkanized southeast LA, divided into many small cities, they
>discovered that the plant was located in Lynwood, and zoned industrial,
>while their homes and the elementary school across the street were in
>Los Angeles, and zoned residential.
>"The city's message to us was that we live in the wrong place. In their
>eyes, we just shouldn't be there," Diaz says. Ana Cano got the same
>message when State Senator Gloria Molina came out to look at the impact
>of the glass dust on their homes. "We have to expect this, she told us,
>because we live in an industrial neighborhood," Cano recalls.
>These neighbors are working-class people. They don't want factories shut
>down or industry to disappear.
>That's where many of them have jobs. "We understand we all need to
>work," Diaz says. "But these places have to respect the people in the
>community which surrounds them. The bottom line is that our community is
>poor. Everyone in our neighborhood is Black or brown. Many like me are
>immigrants. And you only find these kinds of companies in poor
>neighborhoods. Can you imagine a metal recycler in Santa Monica or
>Hollywood? They just know we can't go anywhere else."
>Carlos Porras, Southern California Director of Communities for a Better
>Environment, points out that recycling is exempted from most regulation,
>because it's viewed as an environmentally-positive industry.
>"Public policy has allowed recycling plants to crop up without
>oversight," he says. "This is environmental
>injustice. Regulations are simply not applied to potentially harmful
>businesses which are located in low-income communities of color,
>particularly in southeast Los Angeles."
>But the burgeoning recycling industry is about to be challenged.
>Southeast LA neighborhoods are discovering that they are helpless in the
>face of environmental injustice if they don't get organized.
>One concrete recycler in Huntington Park has faced an organized campaign
>of neighborhood opposition for 4 years. Although residents of Cottage
>Street started out simply trying to control the plant's operations, the
>company's hardball defiance hardened neighborhood attitudes. They
>stopped the operation completely, and made support of its owner the
>political kiss-of-death at city hall.
>"The council thought Sam Chew's concrete recycling business would be the
>first of many such clean and green facilities," says Dean Hickman, who's
>fought against the concrete mountain from the beginning. "But we not
>only organized our own neighborhood in response, now we're going to the
>neighborhoods around other plants, and helping them get organized as
>Maybe the greenest thing produced by the burgeoning recycling industry
>will be a new movement for environmental justice. **


End of GreenYes Digest V97 #289