GreenYes Digest V97 #322

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GreenYes Digest Mon, 5 Jan 98 Volume 97 : Issue 322

Today's Topics:
catching up on old mail
Plastic Recycling
Plastics Recycling - Addendum

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Date: Sun, 04 Jan 1998 15:35:13 -0800
From: Helen Spiegelman <>
Subject: catching up on old mail

At 09:27 PM 12/11/97 -0500, Bill Sheehan wrote:

>Below is the article from the Dec. 8th issue of
>Newsweek that discusses zero waste. It is the
>first article we know of in the mainstream
>national media.

Thank you, Bill, yet again, for keeping us all briefed!

I was struck by the following passage in the article, which sums up the
author's understanding of the meaning of Zero Waste:
The idea is that today's entire >discard stream, all 208 million tons of it
>annually, can be reused, recycled or composted, >leaving nothing for

Dan Knapp, a zero->waste consultant and president of a reuse >business in
Berkeley, Calif., puts it this way:
>"We view garbage as a manufactured product. When
>a garbage truck smashes your trash together, >that's the first step in
creating the chaos that >ends up in a landfill." Kanpp says that it's
>possible instead to clean and sort trash into 12 >big categories,
including chemicals, plastics, >wood, metal, and putrescibles ("anything
that >smells bad and rots"). Facilities would then >process these materials
and turn them into raw
>goods for industry....

With all due respect, Bill and GRRN folk, I think this line of thinking
needs exploring. Let me explain.

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 (old
running shoes? Ripped and doodled vinyl 3-ring binders? vapour-seal lined
dog-food bags? foil potato chip bags?) And so much that does, poses great
challenges to the "facilities" that Dan hopes will "process" the materials
and make them available to "industry". (Our city pays a garbage hauler
$44/tonne to process and market sorted tinplate, HDPE and glass food

The problem, as I see it, is that the consumer products we all use every
day continue to be *designed to be wasted*. The reason for this, I believe,
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 principle
not for *waste managers*, but for *producers*.

Rather than encourage communities to build facilities to sort the effluent
of affluence into 12 categories, I (along with Reid Lifset) foresee the
*industries* that actually produce the effluent teaming up to create their
own facilities to serve consumers in local communities where their products
are sold. Separate classes of facilities will likely deal with related
products (beverage containers... automotive chemicals... paper
products...). Each facility would be financed by a consortium of industries
whose products are received there (this is the model for Product
Stewardship programs in British Columbia). The cost of operating these
facilities will serve as an incentive to *design for zero waste* -- or damn
close to it...

Here's a thought I'm still brooding over:

The Product Stewardship scenario I'm describing will in some ways
constitute the *apogee* of our mass-market consumer culture -- the highest
point in its evolution. ANd it will serve best the interests of Big Players
in a globalized economy.

The infrastructure for waste management will be vertically integrated into
the industrial system. It will almost certainly be controlled by the Name
Brands. This concentration of ownership will reduce the opportunities for
independent, locally-owned businesses (such as DAn Knapp's) to get a piece
of the action.... but it will be efficient and reliable, just the way Name
Brand products are...

Is there any way out of this dilemma, or are we headed inexorably for an
environmentally-conserving consumer monoculture?

Helen Spiegelman
Vancouver, British Columbia

604/731-8463 (fax)


Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 21:18:12 -0600
From: "RecycleWorlds" <>
Subject: Plastic Recycling

The December 1997 issue had a feature story with the following summary
tag line:

As economic and regulatory pressures build to recycle greater
quantities of resin,
demand is rising for screenchangers that can process material to a
high degree of
purity. Latest low-maintenance offerings handle high levels of
contamination and
provide advanced control systems."

This is important to improve the use of postconsumer resin in higher
end applications, including increasing the feasibility of going
directly from flake to molding without intermediate repelletizing
which is largely done to insure purity and which adds 8-10 cents per
pound to the 10-12 cents per pound to grind, wash and dry, the 4-5
cents/lb. to sort and the 10 cents or more to collect, plastic

Previously, if the flake contained contaminants, they would clog the
screens at the front of the molds, and require shutting down the line
until the screens could be cleaned, hence the need to repelletize with
its additional heat history that offsets its cleaning up. Since
molding is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week operation to be
competitive (due to high capital investment), that had been fatal.

Effective and practical automatic screen changers can dramatically
turn this around for recyclate. MRF's might do well to work with
their reclaimers to explore options to go direct from clean flake to

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


Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 21:38:03 -0600
From: "RecycleWorlds" <>
Subject: Plastics Recycling - Addendum

My last message referenced an interesting article on screen changers
in the December 1997 issue of an -- due to a typo -- unnamed journal.
That journal is Modern Plastics. Sorry about that.
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 V97 #322