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[GreenYes] Zero Waste Initiatives
Press Release

Zero Waste Initiatives
Richard Anthony
May 2002

Since1976, when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act became the law of the land, the requirements for education and training have never been fully funded.  Because of this and the current status quo of subsidizing wasting, there is a lack of information and courses that provide recyclers’ information about zero waste principals and practice.  We get our information off the Internet and through Recycling Conferences.

Recycling conferences are now regular events, with gatherings at the local, state, national, and international levels. These are our networks. The information passed on and the agreements and partnerships made are part of the history of our careers.

This February 2002, the Recovery, Recycling, and Re-integration Congress in Geneva, Switzerland ( provided me and six other zero waste advocates an opportunity to look at Dutch recycling and work with zero waste activists in the United Kingdom. What I learned in general on this trip was that zero waste is accepted at both the scientific and grass roots levels with little objection.  To achieve these ends in Europe, the political solution has been to ban the disposal of organics in landfill at levels that ratchet up, and force industry to take back products at the end of life.   This approach is 180 degrees different than in the U.S.   Our common struggle is the institutionalized subsidization of wasting.

I started the trip in Amsterdam.  A great place to lose your jet lag.  I met with a city official and a local anti-toxic campaigner.  I wanted to know how recycling was working in Holland.

In the Netherlands, since the Waste Policy (1988-91) the growth rate for wasting was cut from 40% to 23% and the portion recycled increased from 50% to 75%.  Businesses are required to take back many products after use. Lansinks Ladder is national policy: 1. prevention, 2. design for prevention,  3. product recycling (reuse), 4.  material recycling, 5. recovery for use as fuel, 6.  disposal by incineration, 7. disposal by landfill.

Over 40% of the household organics are collected for composting. Most the compost is used in Holland. Drop off centers for paper, glass, clothing, construction and demmoltion are located around the towns.  Materials Recovery Faciities operate through out the cities run by the private sector.  What is left is burned with metal recovery from the ash.  The Non Government Organization that once pushed for reycling now focuses on matters of health and toxics.  

The next stop was Geneva Switzerland for R’02. Several of the international speakers referred to imitating nature, one pointing out there was no waste in the natural order.  Several others pointed out that Increasing entropy in the area of resources (mixing and losing) was limiting sustainability on the planet.  Chief Seattle's statement about not inheriting the earth from our ancestors but borrowing it from our children was quoted in a couple of speeches.

Our zero waste topic sessions and the workshop were well attended and we counted 18 different countries in attendance.  There were facility fighters from many countries frustrated with landfill and incineration technologies.

After four days in Geneva we were off to London. Our funder for travel is the grassroots recycling ( network.  Messages were left in several countries offering our workshop to local grassroots zero waste organizers for room and ale.  We were met at the airport by a chartered van and driven south and east  past  the White Cliffs of Dover and to Brighton Beach to a bistro with rooms near the ferry to France.  Here we met our sponsors and met with local organizers.

It seems that the European communities’ goal to reduce organics in landfill has given way to combustion advocates trying to contract for long term tips with local authorities.  The locals who will live with the stack emissions are livid.  We met with 200 standing room only organizers and some elected officials at the local University and presented our zero waste theory and practice workshop.  The next day we met with forty or so campaigners, and really just sat in, while they began to organize the zero waste UK movement. I will be there in June.  

Although many can think up problems with trying to get to zero, most wanted to give a go at it.  The wet/dry concept appealed to the British sense of order.  The biggest problem is that the tax system is used to subsidize burn and bury technologies.  My bet is the grassroots recyclers in the United Kingdom and Ireland will change that.

Writing this a couple months later, I feel a part of something that is global and good.  There is an international movement toward protection of health and resources and zero waste principles is an important piece.  We need to continue to weave the network and document our successes.   

Richard Anthony Associates
3891 Kendall Street
San Diego CA 92109
858 272 2905 (P)
858 272 3709 (F)

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