Dear Eric and Enzo;
Many in this list know i have spent nearly 40 years in
this business. As a Staff Scientist with an Engineering firm, I was a part
of the EPA and California State garbage sorting efforts in the 70ies and
initiated sorts in Fresno 1980ies (500,000 people) and later in the
1990ies (San Diego County 3.5 million people). Today as a consultant to
regional government, i continue to spend time at disposal sites.
Eliminating all compostable organics from the landfill by
law eliminates the biological part of the MBT.
Currently my firm is contracted to prepare resource
management not waste management plans.
However in LA we have looked at recent sorts and
see a non marketable residual comprised primarily of nappies and
treated wood. In the 12 basic market categories we find a
total of 7% residual of badly designed materials, some in each
sorting category (paper, plastic, glass, etc). It seems to me
that EPR is a better way to manage these discards than building a expensive
magic black box.
The problem in the plants we have looked at is that a
comprehensive mandatory separation program was not in place. We still
make people walk to recycle or compost or discard hazardous
materials and pick up wasted resources and mistakes mixed in a
truck. This is happening in many of the places i have visited in the
world. What ended up at the MBT plant in
Germany was mostly dry material, organic in that it was wood and
plastic but not what you would call; the pathogen
generating organics. This material has lead, cadmium,
and mercury. Stuff that fell through the cracks. Some of
was what is now identified as WEE (electronic discards). Soaked in
water the residual was full of heavy metals and burned in a
paper mill (sounds like WtE to me).
In towns in northern Italy and Japan, they have
reach 90% through required and comprehensive programs.
Why would we build a bridge, are we trying to escape
the problem. We need to organize and manage the problems where we
My problem is that I know from experience, that if
we spent half as much money as we spend on these magic boxes on
social education, ordinance and tax reform, and comprehensive collection
and processing systems, we would solve this problem. The products
like diapers which require a redesign would be relegated to EPR actions and
banned in communities until they complied with the discard management
Its pretty late in the struggle to still allow volunteer
wasting systems to exist. Some say the ice cap fell off a cliff last
Enzo we need a international dialog. I was in Sicily in
December and the passion on this issue that is happening in Italy is
of concern to the world. If we could come up with $50,000 euros of EU
or other funds we could bring all these international experts to Rome
and work out these details. It is clear that this should happen this
spring and ZWIA should make it happen.
to expand upon the key starting point I made in introducing this
"bridge strategy" concept, and which Enzo reminded us, and that is the need
for a workable strategy to kill new incinerator proposals as they are emerging
everywhere. For my American peers, we also need to fight the emerging
"new and improved landfill" called a bioreactor that Waste Management Inc. and
all the other "integrated solid waste professionals" (ISWM) seem to think is
the alternative to incinerators. But these "bioreactors" are a joke...
and they are winning more contracts than the Zero Wasters... so who is the
joke on? Our goal should be to create a
technological-financial-political proposal that can compete at the table with
a $100 million incinerator or bioreactor project. Until we grow up, (and
that line is sure to start a firestorm of debate!), we will be delegated
to be the head of the kids table at dinner.
Let's remember to not kill
the good in pursuit of the perfect. Credibility comes with speed of
execution, and it's time for us to move.
That's enough pithy cliche's
for one day!