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[GreenYes] Landfilling vs Recycling vs Zero Waste
From: "Michael Jessen" <zerowaste@netidea.com>
To: "Zero Waste Listserv" <zerowastegr@onenw.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2002 3:52 AM
Subject: ZW: Re Fazil Mihlar's opinion piece, Oct. 28

At a time when I should be sound asleep my blood boiled over after reading
Monday's Vancouver Sun editorial page. I have responded to many of Mr.
Mihlar's commentaries before but my rebuttals have never been printed.

So I send it out to you, dear friends, to let you know that someone is
trying to respond to this fuzzy brained thinking.

Cheers,
Michael

A Proposed Commentary for the Vancouver Sun:

Finally, Fazil Mihlar and I can agree on something -- his closing comment in
his October 28 opinion piece "Let's look sensibly at recycling economics" in
which he writes: "recycling is a tool that should be used judiciously, not
indiscriminately, in our quest to protect the environment."

I would, however, be more congratulatory if Mr. Mihlar's final comment was
not preceded by columns full of misinformed nonsense.

Mr. Mihlar chooses to skewer recycling because it costs more than
landfilling. True enough, in almost all cases, but then why doesn't he
wonder why this is so, instead of just writing recycling off as an economic
burden. The Canadian provincial ministers of the environment produced a
report in 1995 for the National Roundtable on the Environment and the
Economy indicating that a number of our tax laws favoured the extraction of
raw resources and penalized the use of secondary recycled materials. Sadly,
these laws still exist today so it is little wonder that some materials
fetch poor prices at the loading dock.

The costs of collecting and landfilling garbage, cited by Mr. Mihlar, also
do not reflect the future cost of replacing and looking after a full
landfill for up to 30 years. In addition, our society does not yet value
recycled resources enough to buy them when they look for new file folders,
envelopes, writing paper, and a myriad of other items. Those are only three
of many reasons why recycling can and does look bad from a strictly economic
point of view.

But the real issue is not about the cost of recycling versus landfilling. It
is why do we humans make waste in the first place. In our quest to protect
the environment we should be designing waste out of society, not
institutionalizing it either through landfilling or recycling. Recycling is
only one among many tools that we can use to reduce our waste burden.

As of October 2002, 212 of 445 reporting jurisdictions in California had
satisfied the requirement of the California Integrated Waste Management
Board to divert from landfill at least 50 percent of their waste beginning
in 2000. Even more impressive is the fact 46 of the 212 communities and
counties reported diversion rates of 60% or higher and 12 reported diversion
of 70% or higher. Two reached 85% diversion, one reached 87%, and Blue Lake
reached 91% diversion. (In our own province, waste requiring disposal had
been reduced by 29.7% by the year 2000 according to statistics compiled by
the Recycling Council of BC for the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air
Protection. Of Canada's ten provinces and three territories, only Nova
Scotia achieved the 50% waste reduction goal from 1990 levels.)

This March, New Zealand has become the first country to embrace a zero waste
goal. San Francisco recently became the first major American city to develop
a zero waste plan. Many other jurisdictions, and companies like Interface,
Collins Pine, Ikea, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Sony, Electrolux, McDonalds and
hundreds of others have found that eliminating waste saves money.

I wish Mr. Mihlar had chosen to write about these success stories instead of
fighting a decades old battle about the value of recycling. Yes recycling
programs began in the 1980s and like everything in life they need to evolve.

Unfortunately, most North Americans are taught that it is okay to buy bags
for the sole purpose of filling them with the Earth's precious resources and
then paying to throw them away every week. That's really false economics.

Mr. Mihlar's commentary does little to encourage people to change their
profligate ways.

Michael Jessen
President, Zero Waste Services
5635 Highway 3A
Nelson, BC V1L 6N7
Home Phone: 250-229-5632, Work Phone: 250-354-4922


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