GreenYes Digest V98 #1

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GreenYes Digest Tue, 6 Jan 98 Volume 98 : Issue 1

Today's Topics:
meeting 'recycling' goals--send me your ideas
questions on batteries -Reply
Zero Waste & Producer Responsibility

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Date: Mon, 5 Jan 98 17:48:59 PST
From: (Bruce Nordman)
Subject: meeting 'recycling' goals--send me your ideas

Alameda County (California) has a 50% "recycling" goal for the year
2000. We probably won't make it and so are soliciting ideas for
ways to try to close the "gap". We already have a wide range of
programs--we're looking for those that are plausible to implement
on the county level, but that are more innovative or controversial.

The following is an (expected) excerpt from the January, 1997
newsletter of the Northern California Recycling Association.
There is a spiffy graph not in this text version, but it will be
in the newsletter and both can be found at:
Feel free to redistribute this.

Is there a "Gap" in Alameda County's Future?
by Bruce Nordman
member, Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board ("Recycling Board")

Like the rest of California, Alameda County and its constituent cities
must meet "recycling"(1) goals mandated by AB 939, including the 50%-by-2000
goal. The legislature has already weakened the goals, and can be expected
to do so again in the coming years, particularly with pressure from
regions that are less far along than Alameda County. Thus, we may not
need to be concerned about meeting state requirements.

However, Alameda County faces another mandatethe one insisted on by the
electorate in 1990 when Measure D was passed. Measure D also has a 50%
requirement (though on the county as a whole, not the individual cities),
but it is separate from the state's goal and so not affected by any
lenience the state promulgates (Measure D also has a further 75% goal!).
There is reason to be concerned that we will fail to meet that mandate,
and since 2000 is now less than 2 years away, we should consider actions
beyond what we otherwise would have had we been on a track to meeting the
obligation. As the responsible agency, the Recycling Board is formally
asking anyone with suggestions on actions we might take to forward them
for possible consideration (see below).

Alameda County made the laudable progress from a 13% to 39% diversion rate
from 1990 to 1996. At that rate of improvement, we would be well on our
way to 50%. However, over half of the reduction was in the first year,
there has been essentially no progress since 1994, and most programs to
increase diversion (such as curbside collection) have been implemented
nearly county- wide. Board staff recently noted that "Unfortunately,
preliminary figures for early 1997 suggest that the amount of waste
disposed [unadjusted for population and economic expansion] is now
increasing"(2). We do not have a scenario outlined for how the 50% goal
could be obtained. Thus, while we may make some progress in the next 2
years, we seem to be facing a 'gap' of perhaps 5 to 10%.

There are other reasons to believe the gap exists. The amount of Alameda
County waste landfilled in 1990 was about 10% higher than 1989 and more
than 20% higher than 1991. Thus, 1990 seems to be an anomalously high
year (possibly due to the 1989 earthquake), and so not truly reflective of
our landfilling practices for that general period of time. Additionally,
about 7% of the material currently deposited in private landfills in the
county is "Alternative Daily Cover", and is not counted in the above
figures. While some of this may be environmentally appropriate (e.g.
auto shredder fluff), it does not seem to qualify as "recycling" under
Measure D's definitions, so should be considered landfilled material for
purposes of calculating diversion rates. These two factors could easily
raise the 'gap' to 20%.

Based on the above, the evidence for the gap seems overwhelming, and no
one could reasonably argue that a gap is implausible. As the agency
responsible for meeting Measure D's mandate, I believe that the Recycling
Board would be negligent if it did not seek out innovative ways to close
the gap. While the cities, non-profits, private sector, and the agency
all have plans for efforts to increase diversion, the gap suggests that we
need to think "outside the box" about ways we might close itto explore
efforts that we might not consider in the absence of a gap.

In response to board concern about the possible gap, the staff sent a
letter to interested parties soliciting one-sentence ideas for possible
consideration. Unfortunately, that letter did _not_ include the
information about a likely gap which was the reason for the letter in
the first place.

An obvious example of a "gap-filler" is a ban from landfilling of
materials that seem readily divertable, such as construction waste or yard
debris. Some have proposed different kinds of facilities. Policy
approaches (such as trying to regionalize Measure D) may also be worthy of
consideration. At this stage we are only seeking one-sentence
descriptions of an effort (though references for further information are
appropriate) to be used in deciding which gap-fillers to do more research
on. Please send your ideas to the board (and feel free to cc: me). The
bottom line is that if Alameda County fails to meet the Measure D mandate,
it will not be a surprise. If we have done our best and failed, I am
satisfied; however, if we have not considered leading-edge methods to
reach the goal, I believe we will have failed to carry out the law as

The Source Reduction and Recycling Board can be reached at 510-614-1699 or Bruce an be reached at 510-486-7089 or

1The recycling goals are often "diversion" or "disposal reduction" goals,
ostensibly to incorporate source reduction as well. I don't believe that
source reduction is at all adequately addressed, but that's an issue for
another day.

2Staff report to Recycling Board Committee of the Whole, on "Project to
Revise the Agency Strategic Plan and Recycling Plan", November 13,
1997--also the source for most of the figures used here.


Date: Mon, 05 Jan 1998 08:14:39 -0500
Subject: questions on batteries -Reply

Hi Susan,

Dry Cell and disc or button batteries are used in flash lights, radios,
hearing aids, watches, cameras, calculators, toys, and other items in
the home. These batteries may contain zinc, lead, alkalines, MERCURY,
nickel, cadmium, sliver, and electrolytes. If batteries leak or explode the
chemical substances contained in these batteries can cause internal
and external burns and irritation. Batteries which explode can spew
their contents on unsuspecting victims. There are two primary reasons
that batteries explode: if an attempt is made to recharge
nonrechargeable batteries, gases may build up and generate enough
pressure to explode the battery; and batteries which are thrown into a
fire, burned in a barrel, or otherwise incinerated can explode. Batteries
which are chewed on or punctured can also leak.

Discarding batteries poses a clear environmental danger. Batteries
contain heavy metals, such as silver, nickel, cadmium, lead, MERCURY,
lithium, manganese, and zinc, which can accumulate and concentrate in
waterline, wildlife, and humans. An example of the danger posed by
batteries is that one mercury battery contained in six tons of garbage
exceeds the allowable limit for mercury in solid waste as established by
the federal government.

DISPOSAL: Mercury-oxide button batteries are often collected by
jewelers, pharmacies, and hearing aid stores who sell them to
companies that reclaim the metals. Many communities across the U.S.
are separating batteries from their waste stream and contracting with
companies to provide recycling, neutralization, or proper disposal.

Household Hazardous Waste: Use, Storage, Disposal Guide
EPA Region 5 and Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Purdue Univ.

Hope this helps!


Date: Mon, 5 Jan 1998 09:25:55 -0600
From: "RecycleWorlds" <>
Subject: Zero Waste & Producer Responsibility

In the 1/5/98 GreenYes, Helen Spiegelman wrote:

"Can we really say that all 208 million tonnes of trash are in fact
reusable? So much trash does not fit into Dan Knapp's 12 categories
running shoes? Ripped and doodled vinyl 3-ring binders? vapour-seal
dog-food bags? foil potato chip bags?) And so much that does, poses
challenges to the "facilities" that Dan hopes will "process" the
and make them available to "industry".
"The problem, as I see it, is that the consumer products we all use
day continue to be *designed to be wasted*. The reason for this, I
is that the producers lose nothing from wasting. THis is because
communities have cheerfully taken on the burden of making the waste
disappear, at higher and higher cost, and with arguably incommensurate
"I think that we need to be conceptualizing zero waste as a design
not for *waste managers*, but for *producers*.
"Rather than encourage communities to build facilities to sort the
of affluence into 12 categories, I (along with Reid Lifset) foresee
*industries* that actually produce the effluent teaming up to create
own facilities to serve consumers in local communities where their
are sold. The cost of operating these
facilities will serve as an incentive to *design for zero waste* -- or
close to it..."



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 #1