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[GreenYes] Re: The death of recycling



I'm in favor of "Zero Waste" because it challenges everybody to
*think* about the problem. I didn't get there immediately; at first,
I shied away because of the negative reactions some people have ("you
can't ever get to zero..."). But if we can't get people to think we
can't get away from the garbage industry model--as Paul Palmer points out.

It's hard to exaggerate the consequences of cheap production in the
East, especially China--the near-universal substitution of
replacement for repair. On the other hand, many of my friends are
driving cars that have upwards of 200,000 miles on them--due to
superior automotive technology and manufacturing developed in Japan.

I'm pretty much a pragmatic local activist, not a wonk, but I think
we have to get beyond recycling numbers games and offer people
concepts and approaches they can understand.

am

At 10:10 PM 5/2/2007 -0400, Neil Seldman wrote:

>Dear All,
>
>I did not post my piece on Paul Palmer's zero waste article, because
>it is too long for this venue and because I still have to fill in
>some dates and footnotes. I will let everyone know when it will be
>available. Sorry for inconvenience.
>
>In short, I liked the article, and tried to emphasize the consistency
>of efforts between zero waste and zero waste to landfill; and the
>recent transitions. Naturally, I added a little history.
>
>For those who do not know, Paul and I are long time friends and I am
>working with him on zero waste projects. Paul is always stimulating,
>if aggressive with his ideas.
>
>I look forward to comments and dialogue.
>
>Neil Seldman
>On May 2, 2007, at 3:40 AM, GreenYes group wrote:
>
> >
> > GreenYes
> > http://groups.google.com/group/GreenYes?hl=en
> >
> > GreenYes@no.address
> >
> > Today's topics:
> >
> > * The Death of Recycling - 1 messages, 1 author
> > http://groups.google.com/group/GreenYes/browse_thread/thread/
> > 9f0809a2a0bbdb42?hl=en
> >
> > ======================================================================
> > ========
> > TOPIC: The Death of Recycling
> > http://groups.google.com/group/GreenYes/browse_thread/thread/
> > 9f0809a2a0bbdb42?hl=en
> > ======================================================================
> > ========
> >
> > == 1 of 1 ==
> > Date: Tues, May 1 2007 1:39 pm
> > From: "Pat Franklin"
> >
> >
> > Pete,
> >
> >
> >
> > Very interesting article....he/she makes some valid points about
> > Zero Waste
> > and recycling. I fought the Zero Waste concept myself for years. I
> > use to
> > say to Bill Sheehan, then ED of GRRN, "Bill, how the heck to you
> > think we
> > can get to zero waste, or even "darn close" if we can't even get the
> > beverage container recycling rate back up to 50% and beverage
> > containers (on
> > a tonnage basis) are the single most valuable segment of municipal
> > solid
> > waste?"
> >
> >
> >
> > But I've come to embrace Zero Waste. For me it's a question of
> > moving the
> > ball further away from 100% wasting, with a goal of getting as
> > close to zero
> > waste as possible. At this point in time, for beverage containers
> > at least,
> > we're a long darn way from zero waste. In fact we're at 77%
> > wasting. I'd
> > like to see the needle move from 77% wasting to 48% wasting, which
> > is where
> > we were about 15 years ago. But I wouldn't want to stop there.
> > Why not
> > push the envelope.
> >
> >
> >
> > Frankly, I think we all owe a debt of thanks to the author of the
> > article
> > below. The article is worth a read, and some serious thinking
> > about the
> > legitimate issues he/she raises. For example:
> >
> >
> >
> > * Backhauling trash from an event in a remote location to a
> > trash bin
> > in another area is NOT Zero Waste. It is just moving a lot of waste.
> >
> >
> >
> > * Collecting stuff for recycling is not really recycling if
> > you are
> > just passing junk along to a mill who has to screen it out and
> > dispose of
> > it.
> >
> >
> >
> > * In many areas, achieving a certain "diversion" or recycling
> > number
> > has become so important that what recycling or diversion "is" has
> > become
> > irrelevant.
> >
> >
> >
> > Thanks for passing this along Pete.
> >
> >
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> >
> >
> > Pat Franklin
> >
> > New email address: PatFarrellFranklin@no.address
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address]
> > On Behalf
> > Of Pete Pasterz
> > Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 11:56 AM
> > To: greenyes@no.address
> > Subject: [GreenYes] The Death of Recycling
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > I have to say I'm surprised that there have been NO postings on
> > greenyes
> >
> > in reaction to the "Death of Recycling" posting from John Reindl
> > over a
> >
> > week ago. I expected it to stimulate MUCH philosophical discussion on
> >
> > this, a premier list of Zero Waste advocates....
> >
> >
> >
> > Below is an example of reaction [attribution intentionally removed] to
> >
> > the Palmer article on another listserv I belong to...there had been a
> >
> > string of reactions prior to this posting from today, all taking
> > offense
> >
> > with some aspects of Palmer's assertions or attitudes, and many by
> >
> > extension, taking offense to Zero Waste and its advocates.
> >
> >
> >
> > Any reactions?
> >
> >
> >
> > Pete Pasterz
> >
> >
> >
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
> >
> >>>>>>
> >
> > ORIGINAL MESSAGE:
> >
> >
> >
> > I have to say, I hate the Zero Waste movement and will resist any
> >
> > efforts to align either RecycleMania or CURC to it.
> >
> >
> >
> > First, it is promoting a concept that is impossible by the laws of
> >
> > physics. No process is 100% efficient. Thus, any process shall
> > produce
> >
> > waste. Period. There is NO zero-waste process in nature. It is a
> >
> > question of what happens to that waste that is the issue.
> >
> >
> >
> > Second, I have witnessed several folks promote "Zero Waste Successes"
> >
> > that are really "zero waste frauds." Backhauling trash from an
> > event in
> >
> > a remote location to a trash bin in another area is NOT Zero
> > Waste. It
> >
> > is just moving a lot of waste. Not putting out trash barrels for an
> >
> > event, only to see the trash littered around campus or thrown into
> >
> > existing trash dumpsters to make them overflow is NOT zero waste.
> > It is
> >
> > only creating headaches for the grounds and custodial staff.
> > Diverting
> >
> > 50% of waste from an event is impressive, but not Zero Waste.
> >
> >
> >
> > Third, is that our existing recycling & diversion rates are already
> >
> > suspect. Collecting stuff for recycling is not really recycling if
> > you
> >
> > are just passing junk along to a mill who has to screen it out and
> >
> > dispose of it. This is an especially troubling issue with single-
> > stream
> >
> > programs shipping stuff to China. I have heard reports of as much as
> >
> > 40% of that material being landfilled as contamination (China is
> > without
> >
> > a native paper industry and so desperate for fiber that they don't
> > seem
> >
> > to mind, but is this really recycling?). Is this really recycling, or
> >
> > is it exporting trash? If I told you I was going to ship 40 tons of
> >
> > trash to China for them to landfill, folks would demonize me.
> > However,
> >
> > if I ship 100 tons of single-stream recycling to China, knowing
> > that 40
> >
> > tons of that will have to be screened out and landfilled, I am then
> >
> > lauded for doing an exceptional job? In many areas, achieving a
> > certain
> >
> > "diversion" or recycling number has become so important that what
> >
> > recycling or diversion "is" has become irrelevant. And now, we are
> >
> > going to chase another unattainable number, further risking that
> > how we
> >
> > achieve the number is meaningless, as long as we achieve it?
> >
> >
> >
> > Fourth, despite all of the money that has gone into promoting zero
> > waste
> >
> > over the past few years, I have a basic question that has never been
> >
> > answered. The question is now 2 decades old from a little old lady
> > here
> >
> > in Western Mass. Back almost 20 years ago, during the rush of the
> >
> > modern wave of recycling, there was a meeting in the hill towns around
> >
> > Northampton. Experts from DEP, EPA, and the environmental community
> >
> > were promoting how recycling and waste reduction was going be so
> >
> > successful that it would eliminate the need for landfills. A
> > little old
> >
> > lady dumbfounded the panel and crowd with a basic question: "what
> > do we
> >
> > do with condoms?" In the age of AIDS, you are not going to promote
> > not
> >
> > using them. As many strides as have been made in making them thinner
> >
> > and more sensitive, you cannot waste-reduce them. You are not
> > going to
> >
> > reuse them. And in almost 20 years of doing this all over the
> > country,
> >
> > I have yet to find a market that would even consider recycling them.
> >
> > Her point and mine is that there is always going to be waste. I have
> >
> > posed her question to Zero Waste "experts" all around the country. I
> >
> > have received lots of eye-rolling. I have received either snickers or
> >
> > condemnation about how much of an a-hole I am. But I have never heard
> >
> > her question answered.
> >
> >
> >
> > I am all for continued process improvement. I am all for sustainable
> >
> > manufacturing processes that incorporate life-cycle-design,
> >
> > cradle-to-cradle concepts, designing for recycling, etc. I am all for
> >
> > green purchasing practices and think we all have a long way to go on
> >
> > that front. If we want to promote those things, count me in!!!
> >
> >
> >
> > However, if we just want to jump on a Zero-Waste bandwagon because
> > it is
> >
> > the latest buzz word, count me out. I don't want to threaten to
> > take my
> >
> > ball and go home, but it may eventually come to that.
> >
> >
> >
> > Our current success with the public perception is tentative at
> > best. We
> >
> > have a RecycleMania competition with more holes in the rules than a
> >
> > colander (for example, I would love to count the Red Sox box score
> > with
> >
> > only David Ortiz's stats, or love to say, well David Ortiz hit 233
> > home
> >
> > runs for his career so let's assume everyone on the roster does that).
> >
> > We have a CURC organization that after more than a decade has
> > struggled
> >
> > to gain traction with anyone on campus other than Recycling
> > Coordinators
> >
> > (not APPA, not Nacubo, etc.). We have constant challenges to the
> >
> > "recycling is good" message that we seem stunned by and seem like
> > we are
> >
> > not fully ready to discuss and defend other than with outrage. And
> > now
> >
> > we want to distance ourselves even more from reality and the
> > mainstream
> >
> > by linking Zero Waste to our efforts? I think we really need to
> >
> > re-evaluate that idea.
> >
> >
> >
> > Some folks have discovered bits of the history of the zero waste
> >
> > movement. Here is some more general info (at the risk of being
> >
> > stereotypical). Before recycling was "accepted" and incorporated into
> >
> > daily life, recycling experts were mostly advocates. All very natural
> >
> > in the evolution of any program. They did a good job. However, when
> >
> > recycling became accepted, it changed the need from advocates to
> >
> > managers. Some folks made that transition. Some were not able to and
> >
> > had not ability to be anything other than an advocate. Unfortunately,
> >
> > rather than taking the advocacy to more of a watchdog role (such as to
> >
> > prevent questionable reporting numbers, or to ensure that buyers
> >
> > followed existing green procurement policies), they could only be
> >
> > advocates. And what better to ensure that you will always have a
> > career
> >
> > as an advocate than to get people to commit to trying to achieve
> >
> > something unattainable (zero waste). They keep their role of only
> > being
> >
> > "pure" and "never comprimising", and sneering at those with a lesser
> >
> > commitment than they have. Fine for them. Just not a black hole
> > that I
> >
> > want to see all of our hard work and success over the past 20 years
> >
> > sucked into.
> >
> >
> >
> > DISCLAIMER:
> >
> > E-mail correspondence to and from this address may be subject to
> > the North
> > Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> >
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> > 4/12/2007
> > 7:58 PM
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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