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[GreenYes] RE: [text][bayes][heur] [GreenYes] Re: Dubner's interview on Good Morning America


It depends on the COSTS you're comparing.  Are the long term human and ecosystem health effects of landfill disposal fully costed??   LCAs are expensive; I have yet to see an LCA which has not been funded by a well heeled vested interest.   I have yet to see an LCA which includes TRUE COST accounting.  
 
From what I've been able to gather so far, Dr. Mort Barlaz at NC State [I wonder if he drives a Prius, or rides his bike to campus, since gas savings are important to him???] in my new home state of NC seems to have a pro-landfill bias; I'll look a the full studies you've cited, but I will NOT be surprised to find missing elements of Environmental cost, or for assumptions which have no scientifically supported grounding [i.e. 75% or 100% of LF GHGs being recovered], just like in all the others I've reviewed. 
 
Pete Pasterz
Harrisburg, NC


From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On Behalf Of Stephan Pollard
Sent: Saturday, July 21, 2007 11:03 AM
To: GreenYes@no.address
Cc: Jeffrey Morris
Subject: [text][bayes][heur] [GreenYes] Re: Dubner's interview on Good Morning America
Importance: Low

Jeff,

I presume we're talking about he U.S. 

Are you suggesting that no matter where you go (in the U.S.), no matter the time, no matter the mix of the plethora of factors/variables including the attributes of the recycling collection program or the differences of the recyclable content from waste stream to waste stream or simply what it takes to recycle or compost, for each commodity collected for recycling and composting, that the benefits outweigh the costs?

To repeat parts of a post made to this group on 9/26/06 RE: Informed Solid Waste Management...LCA is an analytical tool that examines the often complex environmental impact of a product, process, or service.  Information returned from LCAs can be used as an important input to informed solid waste decision-making...decision-making that should incorporate periodic reassessment.  Such reassessment includes, for example, measurement of the efficacy of diversion programs at the material/commodity level.  Depending on ever-changing circumstances, halting the diversion of glass bottles and jars in favor of spending the saved money on programs targeting the diversion or perhaps elimination of high-risk products might be an indicated course of action.  Given the more than appreciable expense of curbside collection of recyclables, a dollar spent on the collection of glass, paper, or PET might be better spent elsewhere, perhaps on drop-off or deposit programs or take-back schemes as has been suggested (Lave et al., 1999; Barlaz et al., 2003).  As Barlaz et al. (2003) point out, saving gasoline has a lot more potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than does PET recycling.

It is important to note that failure to consider that the rarely-static mix of circumstances/management techniques/parameters/inputs differ between locations could result in suboptimal or worse-than-before solutions when applying LCA results in a cookie-cutter fashion.  Additionally, not all LCAs are created equal.  Some are more accurate and(or) thorough in their consideration of input parameters and externalities than others.  Quantifying tangible and intangible social benefits and costs can be very difficult.  Concerning the input data and the quality of the LCA, the old adage (and pardon the pun) "Garbage In Garbage Out" certainly applies.

Lave, L.B., Hendrickson, C.T., Conway-Schempf, N.M., McMichael, F.C., 1999. Municipal solid waste recycling issues. Journal of Environmental Engineering 125(10): 944-949.
Abstract
Municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling targets have been set nationally and in many states. Unfortunately, the definitions of recycling, rates of recycling, and the appropriate components of MSW vary.  MSW recycling has been found to be costly for most municipalities compared to landfill disposal. MSW recycling policy should be determined by the cost to the community and to society more generally.  In particular, recycling is a good policy only if environmental impacts and the resources used to collect, sort, and recycle a material are less than the environmental impacts and resources needed to provide equivalent virgin material plus the resources needed to dispose of the postconsumer material safely.  >From a review of the existing economic experience with recycling and an analysis of the environmental benefits (including estimation of external social costs), we find that, for most communities, curbside recycling is only justifiable for some postconsumer waste, such as aluminum and other metals. We argue that alternatives to curbside recycling collection should be explored, including product takeback for products with a toxic content (such as batteries) or product redesign to permit more effective product remanufacture.

Barlaz, M.A, Cekander, G.C., Vasuki, N.C., 2003. Integrated solid waste management in the United States. Journal of Environmental Engineering 129(7): 583-584.

Best,

Stephan Pollard



Jeffrey Morris wrote:

Hi Folks,

Re: Stephan Dubner’s interview on Good Morning America, we (Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon and the Carnegie Mellon Economic Input Output-Life Cycle Assessment model online at eiolca.net, Frank Ackerman of Tufts and author of Why do We Recycle and co-author of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, and myself) have developed the Consumer Environmental Index (CEI) that measures and tracks the climate change, human toxics and ecosystem toxics impacts of consumer expenditures each year – from resource extraction to production to retail sale and consumer use and through to end-of-life management of discards. The short answer to Stephan Dubner – recycling and composting a household’s discards (paper, glass/metal/plastic containers, yard debris and food scraps) is equivalent to reducing consumption of vehicle fuels, motor oils and repairs by 25% through using mass transit to commute to work frequently enough to attain that 25% reduction. 

So the environmental benefit of recycling and composting is enormous, even though we sometimes have to pay more to recycle than we do to throw discards in the garbage.  The reason that economics and environment are often at odds – emissions to air, water and land of pollutants is typically free, i.e, free disposal of these toxic and climate changing wastes, so the profit or cost/benefit bottom line driven household or business or governmental or non-profit agency saves dollars by throwing things away.  The fact that polluting and wasting is mostly free is at the heart of why we have such a difficult time finding ways to make recycling compete economically with wasting.

You can see a quick description of the CEI at our website www.zerowaste.com and download the presentation slides that Scott and I used when we unveiled the CEI for Washington State at the Washington State Department of Ecology on July 9.  There’s also a report that you can download if you want more details.

The Economist on June 7th ran an article in their print edition on recycling -- The Truth About Recycling -- that came to the opposite conclusion from Dubner.  The Economist is not known for being a liberal rag so that’s another good source to point to for the opposite conclusion.

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.-Economics

Sound Resource Management

2217 60th Lane NW

Olympia, WA 98502-0903

360-867-1033

360-319-2391 mobile

jeff.morris@no.address

www.zerowaste.com





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