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[GreenYes] Fwd: Article from Seattle Times about NRC Congress

>From: janetn@wsra.net
>To: Recycling Organization Council <ROC@nrc-recycle.org>
>Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002 17:31:10 -0800 (PST)
>
>This message was sent to you by janetn@wsra.net, as a service of The 
>Seattle Times (http://www.seattletimes.com).
>---------------------------------------------------------------------
>Comments from sender: Meg asked that I pass this on to the listserv.  I 
>didn't say that people were lazy but otherwise the article quoted me 
>fairly well and we got great press from the conference for recycling in WA 
>state.  Janet
>----------------------------------------------------------------------
>To view the entire article, go to 
>http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis/web/vortex/display? 
>slug=recycle14m&date=20020114
>
>Recycling's down in the dumps
>
>By Craig Welch
>Seattle Times staff reporter
>
>A backhoe pushes crumpled humps of cereal boxes, 7-Up cans, grocery bags 
>and newspaper onto an industrial escalator, moving like a giant metal rat 
>constructing a nest.
>
>The load rides up to a conveyor belt where rows of men, women and machines 
>pluck items out and toss them into separate piles. Big cardboard first. 
>Then small. Overhead vacuums sometimes suck up loose paper. Magnets snag 
>metal cans, separate them from aluminum ones, and shoot them to the side. 
>One crew picks off plastic bags and lets them float two stories to the floor.
>
>This is Rabanco's recycling plant in South Seattle, among the country's 
>most streamlined and adaptable waste-separating facilities &#151; a sure 
>sign Puget Sound is serious about its recycling.
>
>Yet even here, in a city among the first to offer curbside recycling in 
>the late 1980s, recycling has seen better times.
>
>This week, activists and representatives of recycling businesses and 
>governments will gather in Seattle for the National Recycling Congress. 
>Lectures and seminars will touch on everything from design trends to the 
>zero-waste movement to guidelines for "green" building.
>
>But there's a subtext.
>
>"Recycling is struggling right now," said Janet Nazy, executive director 
>of the Washington State Recycling Association. "Some people have forgotten 
>about it. It's not in the news. Some people are lazy. Some wonder if it's 
>worth it. We've started a foundation to do waste-reduction education 
>because the state's not doing as much anymore."
>
>International commercial markets for many recyclables are down. Fiber 
>markets are in the tank. A decade of steady growth in recycling rates has 
>tapered off or, in some cases, slipped backward since the mid-1990s.
>
>In February 2000, a state panel convened to "revitalize" recycling in 
>Washington &#151; where recycling rates remain down from their high of 40 
>percent in 1995 &#151; but many of its recommendations were never implemented.
>
>A spate of anti-recycling news reports led the country's largest nonprofit 
>recycling organization to keep a four-page guide on its Web site: "How to 
>Respond to Attacks on Recycling."
>
>Timber giant Weyerhaeuser &#151; the second-largest paper recycler in the 
>country &#151; stumps for recycling, trying to head off criticism that 
>recycling might not make sense.
>
>  Others suggest the lightning growth in recycling has reached a plateau.
>
>"We've picked all the low-hanging fruit," said Jerry Powell, past National 
>Recycling Congress chairman and now editor of the trade magazine Resource 
>Recycling. "We've got all the easy tons. We couldn't proceed at the rate 
>of the last decade. It was too easy."
>
>The bottom line, Powell said, is the country is using more stuff, so there 
>is more to throw away.
>
>"My son is in fourth grade, and he carries bottled water," Powell said. 
>They refill it, of course, but when Powell was a kid, he used a drinking 
>fountain.
>
>Things could be worse
>
>Not all the news is negative. Far from it.
>
>Seattle's recycling rate is 39 percent, still among the highest in the 
>nation, though down from its high of 42 percent. Washington state's rate 
>rose 3 points to 35 percent last year.
>
>Product stewardship, where manufacturers take responsibility for a product 
>through its life span, is rising. The carpet industry recently announced 
>it will try to take back 40 percent of its products over the next 10 
>years, for example.
>
>And people are increasingly buying recycled products. Weyerhaeuser 
>officials estimate recycled-paper production in 2005 will be 175 million 
>tons worldwide &#151; up from 150 million tons five years earlier. Buyers 
>are expected to demand recycled content in almost 50 percent of all paper 
>by 2005 &#151; up from 44 percent today.
>
>But other parts of the industry aren't doing as well. Shipping rates, the 
>value of the dollar and the recession are having an effect. "It's a 
>cyclical business," said George Weyerhaeuser, vice president of technology 
>and a great-great-grandson of the company's founder. "It's no different 
>than the fact that lumber or the price of a 2-by-4 is down. There's a 
>tremendous growth market for recycling in the next decade."
>
>But he concedes the industry &#151; once cutting-edge cool &#151; still 
>occasionally has to face what it says is a persistent myth: Recycling 
>doesn't make a difference.
>
>In 1996, The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy article titled 
>"Recycling is Garbage." Angry letters streamed in; environmental groups 
>wrote painstaking critiques, pointing out that anti-recyclers quoted in 
>the story primarily were ideologues from libertarian think tanks. Even the 
>story's author doesn't dispute recycling is here to stay.
>
>But damage was done.
>
>"The worry I've read is that recycling is a fad, driven by false 
>environmental concerns, that landfills aren't all bad, that the public has 
>lost interest," Weyerhaeuser said. "I think we just need to stay the course."
>
>Others suggest enthusiasm has stagnated because recycling dropped off the 
>radar of influential government and business leaders.
>
>"In 1988, we were all gung-ho and set up all these wonderful programs," 
>said Chris Luboff, waste-planning supervisor for Seattle Public Utilities 
>(SPU). "We're less aggressive about it now. We put resources and energy 
>into it and expected it would last forever and ever. But you have to 
>retain your attention to it."
>
>On the eve of this week's meeting in Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels 
>reiterated the city's commitment to recycling, pointing out that SPU hopes 
>to boost participation by helping businesses recycle food waste, reviewing 
>commercial recycling and extending free curbside recycling to very small 
>businesses.
>
>Paper or plastic
>
>Art Bridges, plant manager at Rabanco Recycling, doesn't hesitate when 
>asked about the grocery-shopping dilemma.
>
>"Paper or plastic? I always use plastic," he said. "You can carry four or 
>five bags in one hand with plastic. It's just easier."
>
>While recycling experts generally agree that paper and plastic are equally 
>environmentally friendly, Bridges' answer cuts to the core of one the 
>biggest questions: How to motivate consumers.
>
>Even though we recycle, we still buy, use and dispose in ways that are 
>easiest and cheapest. But it's not always the easiest to recycle.
>
>"That plastic over there," he said, pointing to a clubhouse-sized pile of 
>discarded grocery bags. "That's not a moneymaker for us. But it's part of 
>our contract."
>
>Rabanco still recycles plastic, sending it to a company that turns it into 
>decking. And Rabanco makes enough money on other products to cover the 
>loss. But the bags interfere with efficiency on the line.
>
>"We've been trying to get customers to stuff as many bags as they can into 
>one another and tie them up so we can peel off a bunch of them together 
>and throw them to the floor," he said. "Initially, people were pretty good 
>about it, but now we're back to just pulling one bag off the line at a time."
>
>Craig Welch can be reached at 206-464-2093 or cwelch@seattletimes.com
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
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