GreenYes Digest V98 #50

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Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:33:13 -0500

GreenYes Digest Thu, 26 Feb 98 Volume 98 : Issue 50

Today's Topics:
landfill construction and siting costs -Forwarded
Paper vs. Plastic Bags
Paper vs. Plastic Grocery Bags (2 msgs)
Plastics and Public Opinion
Public Opinion

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Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 09:34:27 -0800 (PST) From: "William P. McGowan" <> Subject: landfill construction and siting costs -Forwarded


I have an interview with one of BFI's chief landfill scouts out here in=20 the WEst, which I gathered for my dissertation on the history of the=20 waste service industry. To quote this guy, at least at the end of the=20 1980s, you could not spend too much on developing a landfill. The day=20 I conducted my interview, Eagle Mountain, a megafill to be located out=20 in the low desert here in California, had just been shot down for the=20 first time, and the question I asked him was: how does a company like=20 BFI/WMX estimate the costs of landfill developement when there is always=20 a chance that they will have to go through the CEQA/EPA approval process=20 more than once? He basically said, most big fills eventually get=20 permitted, and their developement costs were irrelavant because they just=20 got passed on to the consumers--ergo his answer. I would love to know=20 what the EPA tells you.

Bill McGowan History, University of California at Santa Barbara Rincon Recycling


Date: 25 Feb 98 13:41:11 EST From: Robert Graff <> Subject: Paper vs. Plastic Bags

A lot has been written on this issue over the past decade. The general=20 conclusions are that neither plastic nor paper is benign, paper is=20 probably more expensive on life cycle basis, plastic is easier to reuse.

Anyone interested in a paper I wrote about 7 years ago on this issue,=20 please email me off the list, and I'll email it to you. It's old, but=20 covers the issues fairly well.

Robert Graff - Associate Scientist - Tellus Institute 11 Arlington Street - Boston, MA 02116 USA phone: (617) 266-5400 x276 - fax: (617) 266-8303 =20 email: - web:


Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 11:36:36 -0600 From: "RecycleWorlds" <> Subject: Paper vs. Plastic Grocery Bags

According to the 2/24/98 Wall Street Journal (p. B1), "Pushing Paper in a Plastic World," by Calmetta Y. Coleman, the paper share of the grocery bag market has fallen from 95% in 19982 to 20% today, even though "[s]hoppers prefer them."

"'I knew that once we [offered paper bags], there was no going back,' says John Love, director of operation services for ABCO, which has 56 sortes in Arizona. 'Customers get hooked.'"

"Giving people what they want, of course, is what business is all about -- unless it costs too much. Plastic bags cost about four cents each. That compares with eight cents for a paper bag and ll cents for a paper bag with handles [although paper bag manufacturers argue that the paper bag has three times the capacity of the plastic bag, equalizing the per unit price difference.]"


"Jonathan Johnson, owner of the seven store Community Pride Food Stores chain in Richmond, Va., says customers frequently ask when he will switch to paper. His standard answer: 'We're looking into it.' In truth, he scoffs at the upfront cost. 'I don't see it,' he says."

____________________________________ Peter Anderson RecycleWorlds Consulting 4513 Vernon Blvd. Ste. 15 Madison, WI 53705-4964 Phone:(608) 231-1100/Fax: (608) 233-0011


Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 13:49:34 EST From: Subject: Paper vs. Plastic Grocery Bags

In a message dated 98-02-25 12:53:06 EST, writes:

<< "Giving people what they want, of course, is what business is all about -- unless it costs too much. Plastic bags cost about four cents each. That compares with eight cents for a paper bag and ll cents for a paper bag with handles [although paper bag manufacturers argue that the paper bag has three times the capacity of the plastic bag, equalizing the per unit price difference.]" >>

There's another player in the paper/plastic/canvas discussion at the cash register: the bagger. When I shop at the little neighborhood market where= the owner usually waits on me, there's a little ritual that happens. He starts= to take out a bag, I say "I don't need a bag" or "here, I have a bag," and he says, "oh, thank you very much." He considers the bag to be an amenity that costs him money, and values my saving him that cost.=20

When I shop at the supermarket a little farther away, I'm usually on my bike and I have to get everything into my canvas bag so I can strap it on. I= have to really wrestle with the young people bagging the groceries to persuade= them to make it all fit, and not to put things like icecream in separate plastic bags, and not to give me a plastic bag for the sack of catfood that I ask= them to leave out of the canvas bag. They see my use of fewer bags as a hassle, though they're generally good natured about it. They have no concept at all of the value of the bags to their employer. Why should they? =20

Sometimes I shop when I'm out with the car and have forgotten to bring bags. Then we have the paper/plastic conversation. I choose paper, and then have= to plead with the kids to fill the bags full. They usually seem to have a= mental picture of how much goes in a bag based on the little plastic bags (which I notice they often use almost for one item each, an incredible number of bags per load of groceries). I've sometimes end up waiting until they've turned away and then repacked three bags into two and surreptitiously folded the extra back in the stack!=20

So (I do have a point with all this): the store owners (chain store= corporate types mostly) that set policy on bag types apparently don't consider bags to be a controllable cost. They make decisions based on purchase price of individual bags, but they don't set store policy to limit the number of bags used. Either they consider the cost of training (and baggers no doubt have= a high turnover rate) to be too high, or they don't consider the potential savings high enough to bother with, or it just hasn't entered their conciousness that the cost of bags is largely influenced by the behavior of their own staff. This last is not unlikely. I have seen corporate types= who devote enormous effort to controlling one type of cost but completely ignore another because they don't classify it as a controllable.

It would be interesting to know how much bags cost for a large supermarket & what the potential savings are if baggers are trained to bag efficiently. = The next step would be, how do shoppers really want their groceries bagged and= how could a positive interaction be set up between baggers and shoppers to encourage waste reduction while saving money and improving customer service? If Safeway can train checkers and baggers to read my charge card or check= and chorus together"have a nice day, Ms. Cloak," they can certainly train them= to optimize use of bags!

Connie Cloak C2: Alternative Services 758 Pine St. Santa Rosa CA 95404 707/573-9808 fax: 575-6866 email:


Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 16:33:34 -0600 From: "RecycleWorlds" <> Subject: Plastics and Public Opinion

The following article appeared in the Feb. 23, 1998 issue of Plastics News (if only the industry would look to improve recycling than increase advertising in order to improve their image):

Plastics=B4 image slips in APC opinion poll By Steve Toloken PLASTICS NEWS STAFF

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20, 11:20 a.m. EST) -- The plastics industry is seeing its image slip lately in public opinion polls, with more people holding unfavorable opinions about plastics manufacturers and voicing concerns about environmental problems. Polling data from the American Plastics Council, which conducts the $17 million ad campaign, indicates it still is making progress in its goal of making people more pro-plastics and boosting some environmental opinions, and messages of health, safety and medical benefits remain very effective in persuading the public. But the results also have shown dips in public opinion, including on environmental questions: * Twenty-seven percent of people surveyed said they had an unfavorable opinion of plastics in 1997, up from 22 percent in 1996. * A broad overall rating of industry=B4s favorability took a small but statistically significant drop below that of competing materials in the last six months of 1997, as did other rankings of environmental attitudes. * The percentage of people saying there are "serious disposal and/or environmental problems associated with plastics" rose to 69 percent in 1997, up from less than 60 percent in 1996, according to a source close to APC. Taken together, the results prompted the American Plastics Council to increase its advertising spending by $1 million in December and January, spending money it initially planned to use later this year. But what caused the downturn? APC points to less spending on advertising, and possibly the impact of advertising by competing materials. The organization has cut its ad spending 10 percent a year for two years, down to $17 million, as the steel and aluminum industries have launched efforts. The Washington-based Aluminum Association started a $14 million effort in November aimed at meeting a 75 percent recycling goal. "We believe there is a correlation between that cut in the budget and the decline, (but) these were not major slippages," said Don Olsen, senior vice president of public affairs for Huntsman Corp. in Salt Lake City and an active member of APC=B4s advertising effort. "These are statistically significant. We are certainly not in the dumps, by any stretch." One former APC official, however, said the detailed polling results reflect public skepticism about the industry=B4s environmental commitment. "Those (environmental) messages aren=B4t going to click with the American public until the public is convinced the plastics industry is committed to recycling," said Bailey Condrey, who left as director of advertising and new media at APC in November. The recycling rates for plastic bottles and rigid containers dropped in 1996, including that for the mainstay material, PET. But Susan Moore, APC vice president of communications, said the industry has done polling about declining recycling rates and found that the public "is not as outraged as people thought." Lance King, spokesman for the Athens, Ga.-based Grass Roots Recycling Network, said people are starting to be more aware of problems in plastics recycling. These include recycling facilities shutting down, and efforts by groups such as GRRN to get Coke to use recycled content in PET and the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund=B4s critique of plastics recycling. But none of those campaigns have had a big impact, he said. "I don=B4t know of a single campaign, or two or three, that has reached the levels of concern that would account for this," King said. "I don=B4t see a single compelling development that has been perceived by the public in a general way." APC officials said the downturn in numbers could be reversed by the additional spending, and they said the public opinion changes are not enough to mean more-restrictive legislation or consumers choosing alternatives to plastics in the near future, unless the downward signs are left unchecked. And they note that the results still show many positives: The industry still is faring much better than when its advertising began in 1992, and messages of the health, safety and medical benefits of plastics remain strong. The environmental news was not all bad. Recyclability still is the positive attribute most frequently identified by the public, APC surveys show. And 1997 also marked the first time a majority of people disagreed with the statement that "plastic products are the single most important cause of the solid waste disposal problems." APC=B4s print advertisements do raise environmental messages. But, Moore said, it is hard to convey environmental benefit messages in television ads because those must point out personal benefits, such as health or safety, that people will remember, Moore said. "Our challenge from day one has been environmental, but the research has revealed that the most effective way to sway public opinion is with health and safety messages," she said. "It is very hard to make the environmental message stick." Huntsman=B4s Olsen said he and other members of APC would like to see the mass-media advertising effort "take these environmental messages head-on." The data came from extensive benchmark polling conducted by the American Plastics Council late last year, the first since 1992, and from ongoing opinion-tracking research. The most recent results came from surveying 1,506 people in midsummer and 1,200 in November. =1A ____________________________________ Peter Anderson RecycleWorlds Consulting 4513 Vernon Blvd. Ste. 15 Madison, WI 53705-4964 Phone:(608) 231-1100/Fax: (608) 233-0011


Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 11:50:35 -0600 From: "RecycleWorlds" <> Subject: Public Opinion

According to the 2/24/98, Wall Street Journal (p. A24), "Clinton's Budget Agenda May Be Lifting Democrats," by Christopher Georges, writing about Pres. Clinton's focus group based legislative agenda of "education, child care and the environment" --

"Even Republican leaders here [New Jersey] -- including staunch supporters of Mr. Pappas -- openly recognize the opportunities Mr. Cllinton has created for Democrats. 'People are moving into $300,000 homes. They care about quality of schools. They want environmental preservation,' says Republic State Rep. Bill Schluter."


"The GOP strategy [of pushing tax cuts instead] may work. But independent political analysts view it as one of the few openings Republicans can give Democrats to make gains in November. 'The prudent course would be to cherry pick a few of the Clinton proposals and go with them.'says Mr. Cook. Adds analyst Stuart Rothenberg: 'People like Rep. Pappas have to break away from the leadership. If they talk only about tax cuts and forget the other issues, they sacrifice too much to Democrats."

This report reflects a common thread from opinion polling over the last year, reflecting a uptick in environmental concern.

Should we reevaluate, then, the resignation common among recyclers to accept the afterglow of the Gingrich revolution that killed any hope of further legislative action to advance recycling? Has the worm turned?

The world is so much what one makes of it. Although curbside programs are one of the most successful and popular environmental programs, the erosion of industry support since 1994, upon which recycling's success depends, is slowly killing recycling's economics in a death of a thousand cuts.

When the next recession hits, if not arrested, that slow decline could turn fatal. Wouldn't it make more sense to ride the cresting wave, redefine our own expectations, and bring recycling initiatives as one of the best ways to advance environmental objectives because of its tangible popularity to the public at large?

____________________________________ Peter Anderson RecycleWorlds Consulting 4513 Vernon Blvd. Ste. 15 Madison, WI 53705-4964 Phone:(608) 231-1100/Fax: (608) 233-0011


End of GreenYes Digest V98 #50 ******************************