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[GreenYes] Need to be careful on how we measure waste reduction.

It's very important not to accept as a measurement tool for waste reduction and recycling some term that involves recycling a percentage of the total amount of materials available for recycling.

What happened in California is that in our base year (1990) we said we had 44 million tons of garbage that went to landfills and incinerators and 5 million tons of measurable diversion for a (roughly) 5% recycling rate (5/49). Those measurements yielded a 49 million ton "generation" rate, being materials available for recycling or wasting. By a series of tricks, the legislature and the Board grew the generation number to 88 million tons by 2005, and since disposal (as measured in landfill-and-incinerator inflows) was at 40 million tons, the state was at 56% diversion. No one has explained how the generation volume grew over 15 years from 49 million to 88 million, an 80% increase in generation, while the population was growing only about 15% tops. In fact we had gone down to 34 million tons disposal after 1990 but it is now back up over 42 million tons. But the 56% published "diversion" rate has everyone sitting on their hands in establishing new programs.

If the legislature in 1990 had said, "We want a million fewer tons of materials going into landfills each year," we'd now be at 26 million tons disposed in 2008 instead of 42+ million tons.

In my professional opinion, measuring diversion by some calculated rate as in California will be easily gamed  unless stringent and energetic safeguards are built in (not done in CA).

I recommend a measurement system based on landfill tons disposed and, as a back-up,  carefully documented recycling measurements as seen in OR and maybe in Florida.

My paper on the CA system is not complete but illuminative; copies of the draft are available for circulation.


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