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[GreenYes] The Death of Recycling? & Role of Zero Waste Community Plans

I wholeheartedly concur that Zero Waste policies and programs need to
focus Upstream and work on industrial redesign to eliminate waste as
its highest priority, and to redesign products and processes to
reduce and reuse materials in products

However, Paul Palmer has overlooked a very valuable resource to make
that happen. The fact is that local governments in California have
broad authority to help businesses move towards industrial redesign
and Zero Waste.

Local Governments Play A Key Role in Moving Towards Zero Waste

Local governments define what is economic for businesses and service
providers to do by how they structure their ordinances, rate
structures, zoning, General Plans, garbage and recycling contracts,
and permits. Zero Waste Community Plans can articulate policies that
will have profound impacts on achieving Zero Waste. Samples of the
policies included in the Palo Alto and Oakland Zero Waste Strategic
Plans are included below.

The Zero Waste planning process is also as important as the
end-product. Through the review of current policies and practices,
Zero Waste planning processes highlight how communities are actually
subsidizing wasting, and working against their adopted waste
reduction policies. Through collaborative efforts, Zero Waste
planning educates the entire community on options and opportunities,
and gets the best ideas on how to move towards Zero Waste from
them. Through these processes, Zero Waste Plans communicate each
community's values and priorities. No two Zero Waste Plans are alike.

Progress is being made towards Zero Waste in California

Contrary to Palmer's critique, there ARE fundamental changes that are
being pursued by communities that have adopted Zero Waste as a goal
and that are planning for it. Although these changes don't happen
overnight, progress IS being made, and not just on more recycling as
Palmer contends. Communities that have adopted Zero Waste as a goal
have led the way to Zero Waste in a number of significant ways:
* San Francisco - led the way on banning fossil plastic bags most
recently, tried to enact a fee on plastic bags last year, adopted
requirements for use of compostable food ware by restaurants, adopted
one of the first city resolutions on Extended Producer Responsibility
last year, and has been a leader in the formation of regional Zero
Waste groups.
* Oakland - led the way with banning expanded polystyrene food
packaging and requiring the use of biodegradable food ware by restaurants
* Bay Area Zero Waste Communities (BAZWC) - this was formed in
December 2005 by all those communities in the San Francisco Bay Area
that had adopted Zero Waste as a goal and were developing plans or
implementing them. Since its formation, BAZWC has helped lead the
way to from the CA Product Stewardship Council, developed a model
food ware ordinance requiring the use of reusable, recyclable or
compostable food ware in restaurants, and advocated for the reuse of
computers being a priority in proposed legislation that was
considering adding computers to an advanced recycling fee system for
computer and TV monitors that has led primarily to the recycling of
those products and not reuse.
* CA Product Stewardship Council (CPSC - see - this was formed by a combination of
efforts, including BAZWC, state and local staff working on household
hazardous wastes and state and local staff working on pre-treatment
for wastewater flowing into regional treatment facilities. Since its
formation last year, the CPSC has helped the CA Integrated Waste Mgt.
Board adopt aggressive priorities for Extended Producer
Responsibility and drafted legislation to require retailers to
takeback pharmaceuticals and other hazardous wastes. Many communities
around California are involved with these new initiatives. These
will change the rules (as Palmer advocates) and are doing so in part
because they were empowered politically by the adoption of Zero Waste
goals and plans. Zero Waste Plans that have been adopted detailed the
need for these new rules and have coalesced these progressive
communities to fight for the new systems together. I encourage
Palmer to actively contribute to drafting Zero Waste Plans to
incorporate the best of his ideas, and many other messages about Zero
Waste that are important.
I urge other communities to join in these efforts by adopting Zero
Waste as a goal and developing Zero Waste Plans to implement those
goals. Sample documents to help in those efforts can be found at the
URLs below.

And I hope you have a successful, effective Earth Day!

Gary Liss

Excerpts from Adopted Zero Waste Strategic Plans

Among other things, the Oakland Zero Waste Strategic Plan notes:
"The volume, complexity, and toxicity of waste are increasing each
year, despite Oakland's successful recycling efforts. Growing
consumption of material and energy for consumer products is impacting
global life support systems. Extraction, processing, production,
transportation, use, and disposal of consumer goods are linked to
most major environmental problems including habitat destruction, loss
of biodiversity, global climate change, and the public health and
social disruption associated with these problems. Local municipal
waste management systems are not intended for or suited to managing
complex and toxic waste. Decisions about wasteful product design and
packaging are made by manufacturers and marketers. Local governments
and rate payers are relegated to bearing the inappropriate burdens of
increasing costs and risks to manage end-of-life products and
materials. Zero Waste represents a fundamentally different approach
that tackles the root causes of wasting and broadens responsibility
for the solutions" (page 11)

"Advocate for Manufacturer Responsibility for Product Waste, Ban
Problem Materials Every year brings an increase in complex, toxic
and non-recyclable products and packaging. This increase is outpacing
local government's ability to safely and cost-effectively handle the
associated wastes, as well as increasing Oakland's future
environmental liability. Unless this cycle is corrected, not even a
high-performing recycling region like ours can recycle our way to
Zero Waste. Oakland needs to join regional, statewide, national, and
international efforts to end the "waste subsidy" for manufacturers
that is currently borne by local governments and ratepayers, and to
insist that the costs and risks to manage end-of-life products and
materials be the responsibility of manufacturers. Such measures can
provide incentives for manufacturers to "design the waste out" so
that products can be readily reused, repaired, reconditioned, or
recycled. Local retailers can assist in collecting and returning
selected products to manufacturers. Use or sale of problematic
products can also be banned, as Oakland has recently done for
expanded polystyrene food packaging and the European Union and China
are doing for hazardous materials in electronic products." (page 6)

"Environmental Hierarchy to Guide Oakland's Zero Waste Strategies,
Policies, and Actions Oakland's pursuit of a Zero Waste Goal will be
guided by an environmental hierarchy for 'highest and best use' of
materials and pollution prevention in all phases of production, use,
and disposition of products and materials (see Exhibit A). Zero Waste
has been defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance as an
economic and physical system that emulates natural cycles, where all
outputs are simply an input for another process. This means designing
and managing materials and products to place highest priority on
conserving resources and retaining their form and function without
burning, burying, or otherwise destroying their form and function. It
means eliminating discharges to land, water or air that harm natural
systems. It means preventing, rather than managing, waste and
pollution, and recommitting to the priority ordering of the waste
reduction hierarchy: first reduce consumption; next, reuse what is
left; and finally, recycle anything that is no longer usable and
landfill any residual." (page 13)
Among other things, the Palo Alto Zero Waste Strategic Plan notes:
"Unlike our current system of managing waste, Zero Waste seeks to
eliminate waste wherever possible by encouraging a systems approach
that avoids the creation of waste in the first place. A Zero Waste
systems approach turns material outputs from one process into
resources for other processes." (page 6)
"Although there have been great strides in expanding recycling over
the last decade, recycling more materials is not enough to achieve a
truly sustainable economy. For every ton of waste buried in
municipal solid waste landfills, about 71 tons of manufacturing,
mining, oil and gas exploration, agricultural, coal combustion and
other wastes are produced along the way. If materials are buried in
a landfill or burned in an incinerator, industry must extract and
process new virgin materials to make new products. It's as if there
is a long shadow of depleted resources and wastes left over for every
product and package used that is much larger than the product or
package itself." (pages 6-7)
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also determined that
"Source reduction and recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions
at the manufacturing stage, increase forest carbon sequestration, and
avoid landfill methane emissions." EPA determined that energy use
and greenhouse gas emissions were reduced the most by eliminating
waste and the reuse of materials. That is why Zero Waste emphasizes
the reduction and reuse of materials first, then recycling and
composting, so that resources are not unnecessarily wasted in the
first place." (page 7)
"It has become increasingly apparent that recycling and composting
alone, to the extent practiced, are not keeping up with the demands
on the system. Even though over the last twenty years the United
States has recycled a greater portion of materials, nationally more
materials are buried or incinerated than twenty years
ago. California is doing only slightly better than national
trends. From 1988 to 2002, California disposed of about 5.5 million
tons less waste, or a decrease of about 12.5%. During this period,
population increased by 4.1 million people, and the economy grew
significantly, so any decrease is truly significant. But this
highlights that the current level of recycling alone will not achieve
Zero Waste. Although recycling and composting are improvements over
landfilling or incineration, they also have their own environmental
impacts that could be reduced by eliminating much of the waste in the
first place." (page 7)
"Zero Waste focuses first on reducing the volume and toxicity of
waste by eliminating them in the first place. Zero Waste then
focuses on reusing materials and products for their original intended
uses, and then for alternative uses, before recycling. Once
materials have been reduced and reused as much as possible, then Zero
Waste focuses on recycling and composting all remaining materials for
their highest and best use. Zero Waste encourages local and regional
public-private partnerships to develop Resource Recovery Parks to
provide the infrastructure and services needed to accomplish all of
these functions. In a Zero Waste system, any materials that cannot
be easily and conveniently reduced, reused, recycled or composted are
either returned to the manufacturer direct or through retail
channels, or no longer used." (page 7)

"The Task Force envisions that policies formulated in the pursuit of
Zero Waste should be within the context of a larger set of
coordinated City economic and environmental sustainability
policies. As public policies harness and engage the forces of the
marketplace, it is believed that business waste generators and
service providers will be brought together to work out details of how
to most efficiently reduce, reuse, and recycle or compost their
materials without the traditional reliance on the City to arrange
such services. This is the essence of "Strategic Recycling," in
which government plays the role as a catalyst, providing information,
creating incentives and setting the rules, but not in directly
providing services to all." (page 19)
"The most critical policy step for the City is to adopt both a
long-range Zero Waste goal and intermediate target(s) and to mobilize
all community stakeholders to participate in working to achieve them.
The Task Force believes that stakeholders should be initially
encouraged through rate-based incentives to pursue Zero Waste, rather
than resorting to waste reduction mandates that invoke fines or
assessments for non-performance. Policies and incentives need to be
applied to restructure rates and fees to provide a clear price signal
to reward those who waste less and recycle more. In this way the
City will help those who eliminate and recycle waste, and let those
who choose to waste, pay higher fees for those services." (page 19)
"Work with State and Federal legislators and encourage other
communities in the region to adopt similar Zero Waste goals and
plans. Work with them where appropriate to remove and resolve mutual
obstacles...Undertake a coordinated effort with regional cooperation,
to support state and national efforts to adopt:
* Extended producer responsibility;
* Deposit programs;
* Funding of zero waste initiatives through statewide or regional
landfill surcharges and product charges;
* Full cost accounting for waste disposal;
* Packaging levies (e.g., on plastic bags);
* Minimum recycled content standards for additional products;
* Design for the environment programs;
* Green procurement and green building guidelines for the public sector;
* National measuring, monitoring and reporting in achieving zero
waste goals; and
* New mechanisms for financial assurance for post-post-closure
liabilities for landfills.
Zero Waste Community Planning Resources
ZWIA ZW Communities List

Oakland, CA Zero Waste Strategic Plan:

Oakland, CA Zero Waste Palo Alto, CA
Zero Waste Strategic Plan -

Palo Alto, CA ZW Website:
Urban Envt. Accords (includes Zero Waste by 2040 as one of the

CA Zero Waste Communities Strategy on how to create a Zero Waste
Community: Zero Waste
Communities [Slide Show] Presented to Palo Alto Zero Waste Task Force
February 10,
Eco-Cycle ZW page: CAW ZW
page: CIWMB ZW
page: Rick Anthony ZW
The CIWMB has some excellent Case Studies of Model Local Government
Recycling Programs and Policies at:, including - Resource
Recovery Parks - Organics Recycling - C&D Policies - Business
Recycling Policies and Programs - Incentives for Maximizing Waste Diversion
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has some excellent documents in
support of Zero Waste, including: Wasting and Recycling in the U.S.,
2000 and

At 02:31 PM 4/5/2007, Paul Palmer wrote:
>...The recyclers went to a number of jurisdictions (several
>California citiesespecially) and urged the cities to join them in
>putting forward thefacade of a new resource management plan, which a
>number of citiesdid. In actuality, the new plans concerned Zero
>Waste in name only.They proposed only more recycling...

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