Rick et al -
As Rick notes, resource management is indeed what it's all about, and 38 years of bridges have brought us only to where we are. In about 1973 I spoke to one of the people at Recycle Ann Arbor who was an inventor of recycling. I asked why recycling was just for cans, bottles, and paper. She said that recyclers realized nearly everything could be recycled, but the public had to get the idea. So if recycling started with easy things available at home, the public would get the idea and develop a system that would recycle everything. That start was as far as the idea got in many places.
The solid waste paradigm turns recycling into a Sisyphean struggle up the slopes of Mt. Trashmore. We can't wait any more for the wasters to lead in a direction contrary to the interests of their purse.
Resource management and development is the framework that lets us grow. It structures in health for the planet. It will also expand local economies and can bring production and jobs back home.
It's time to admit there's no way to develop a win-win solution with wasting. We want the landfill to lose - yes? If yes, the first technical obstacle is the Sacred Packer Truck. This taboo object, which few people mention and most treat as an invisible, unassailable assumption - a sacred cow - is just a container vehicle. It was invented after WWII in partnership with the newfangled sanitary landfill, Hell's baklava. The truck made scavenger companies stop their traditional materials recovery; they became trucking companies. Its heart is a hydraulic system whose sole purpose is to minimize trips to wherever it is emptied. It works by maximizing collection tonnage per route.
It also automatically destroys resources that could have been recycled. As Dan Knapp says, it manufactures solid waste by mashing and contaminating resources. It is a perfect partner and feeder mechanism only for the landfill, which uncritically accepts everything in any condition.
It's a terrible partner for recycling, since recycling methods are fussy if they are proud of their products' quality. They want unmixed resources.
Manage resources, not garbage. Dump the Sacred Packer Truck that makes garbage. Collect resources instead. Take them to a facillity that can process clean incoming flows into quality feedstocks for industry. Six sigma quality control.
Magic black boxes are run by magicians. Resource systems are run by us. Who do you trust?
Mary Lou Van Deventer
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 stand.
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 requirements.
Its pretty late in the struggle to still allow volunteer wasting systems to exist. Some say the ice cap fell off a cliff last week.
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.
I want 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!