Re: [GRRN] Values-Driven Recycling
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 17:01:18 EDT


Peter's point is that the "self-actualizing" generation worked to adopt their
values into legislation and policies at the state and local level that made
recycling economic for millions more people in the 1980s and 1990s.

Solid waste economics at the local level are ultimately political - what
local elected officials are willing to pay for different types of services.
This is a key part of the message I taught in "Economics of Solid Waste and
Recycling" classes at San Jose State Univversity and UC Santa Cruz Extension
over the past six years.

In the 1980s we figured out how to harness the forces of garbage rate-setting
to benefit recycling, and incorporated recycling services as one of the key
services required by local governments to provide to their constituencies.
This was a values-driven paradigm shift in the economics of the industry.
Local governments set rates and demanded services that dramatically expanded
the range of recycling services offered to the public.

We also adopted values-driven policies at the state level (primarily) to
reinforce those local requirements, and to strengthen the economic framework
for recycling to succeed, such as minimum content requirements which
fundamentally changed the economics of the newspaper industry in this country
(resulting in newsprint manufacturers using recycled furnish as their
baseload to meet minimum content requirements, then backfilling with virgin
fiber resources to follow fluctuations in market demand).

Peter is concerned that there may be a backlash to these values-driven
policies at some point. Key to avoiding that is strengthening recycling
economics through greater efficiencies in collection and processing, greater
attention to market development, expanded promotions and outreach programs
promoting reuse, recycling and composting as more efficient resource policies
(as opposed to landfill driven) and more emphasis on waste prevention and
reuse (which actually dramatically save money and resources compared to

Gary Liss
Gary Liss & Associates
Fax: 916-652-0485