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[GreenYes] European Zero Waste Trip Report
To:           GRRN Zero Waste Allies
From:       Bill Sheehan, Executive Director
Re:           European Zero Waste Trip Report
 
Seven U.S. Zero Wasters visited Switzerland and U.K. 
between February 11 and 19, with travel underwritten by 
the GrassRoots Recycling Network.  The trip was a great 
success.  
 
Most exciting for me was gaining a first-hand appreciation 
for the timeliness and potential for Zero Waste to challenge 
the old waste order on a global basis.  We saw this both in 
the response of members of developing nations at a U.N.-
sponsored conference in Geneva, as well as in the response 
of activists and council members in the U.K., where we 
witnessed the early stages of a Zero Waste rebellion.
 
Our team had good balance between practical (recycling) 
and theoretical (beyond recycling) aspects of Zero Waste.  
The team included Drs. Dan Knapp, Jeff Morris, Paul 
Connett and Bill Sheehan, and resource conservation and 
recycling specialists Richard Anthony, Joan Edwards and 
Bill Worrell.  

GENEVA - Integrated Resources Management 6th World 
Congress.  This event was rather formal, the small (300-
400) audience of waste management engineers and 
professionals swallowed up by a cavernous convention 
center.  A good portion of the participants were from 
developing nations like Romania and India, with expenses 
apparently subsidized by the sponsoring organizations.  
This event is held every two years, usually in Switzerland.  
Several of us thought it to be a good forum in which to get 
the Zero Waste program and vision out to a broad global 
constituency (see www.r02.org). 
 
We felt - and got some feedback to support the notion - 
that our group and message provided some needed 
excitement. Certainly Paul Connett's theatrics helped loosen 
up the mood measurably.  Our workshop on the last 
morning was the best attended of five concurrent 
workshops.  We had participants from 18 nations and got 
good audience participation.  Our messages may have 
resonated as an antidote to the presumption that 'sustainable 
development' necessarily involves top down technology 
transfer of capital-intensive schemes built around managing 
waste.
 
UNTIED KINGDOM - The exciting thing about U.K. is 
that waste is becoming a top environmental issue there, and 
Zero Waste is the rallying cry.  This state was brought on by 
a central government plan to build 120 incinerators and by 
reactionary, pro-wasting policies that virtually ensure failure 
of recycling and resource conservation.  U.K. is far behind 
Continental Europe in recycling (national average less than 
10%).  The good news is that U.K. did not rush to build 
incinerators a decade ago when others on the continent did, 
so they have flexibility to chart a new path.
 
On Saturday, we spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of 200 
recyclers, anti-incineration activists and local officials from 
all parts of U.K, organized by Ralph Ryder and Zero Waste 
UK.  The majority of the participants even stayed beyond 
the end of the 6-hour program.  On Sunday, 40 activists met 
to devise a common strategy.  And on Monday, Joan 
Edwards organized a presentation to representatives of the 
Mayor of London.
 
The two main branches of the UK movement are 
communities fighting an onslaught of incinerators and a 
network of non-profit recyclers.  The weekend meetings 
were organized by anti-incineration activists, but had a 
healthy turnout of recyclers.  The non-profit recycling 
network appears to be the main alternative to waste 
companies for providing recycling services, as municipalities 
do not seem to engage directly in either waste or recycling 
collection.  The key question for the success of the emerging 
Zero Waste rebellion seems to be whether the recycling 
community can join solidly with the anti-incineration 
community to both defeat incinerators and demand Zero 
Waste alternatives.

###

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