Re: [GRRN] Local responsibility principle

Bill Sheehan (
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 04:58:10 -0500

... the political pendulum of urban waste management
swings back and forth between the two eminently
reasonable, but mutually incompatible, extremes of centralisation ("waste
management is an uncoordinated mess, therefore we need a central
authority") and local responsibility ("nimbyist politics makes siting of
centralised infrastructure impossible, therefore let those who are singing
the nimby chorus dispose of their own waste").

Maybe things are different in North America than in Australia, but this
characterization of waste politics does not make sense to me. The perception
of waste as a health hazard liability led to localization of waste management
through local government control a century ago. The recognition that waste is
a profitable liability has led to massive centralization of wasting and
attempted marginalization of resource conservation in the past decade.

I'd like to think that "the pendulum" is swinging in a new direction as the
connection between unsustainable resource extraction and wasting is becoming
more evident: from waste as liability to waste as resource. This can lead to
centralization (as in industry take-back systems) or to localization (as in
discard malls -- or recycling estates as they are called in Canberra).

NIMBY is a response to waste facilities, whether centralized or localized,
large or small, in one's neighborhood. NIMBYism is usually justified and is
one of the primary levers moving the pendulum towards 'waste as resources.'

Bill Sheehan
Network Coordinator
GrassRoots Recycling Network
P.O. Box 49283
Athens GA 30604-9283
Tel: 706-613-7121
Fax: 706-613-7123