[GRRN] Time Magazine article on zero waste

David Wood (dwood@ssc.wisc.edu)
Thu, 02 Dec 1999 16:28:28 -0600

Earlier this week I submitted the following letter to the editors of Time
magazine commenting on the November 8, 1999 article posted here this
morning by Gary Liss. Other comments can be e-mailed to letters@time.com.

To the Editors:

Ivan Amato's November 8, 1999 "Can We Make Garbage Disappear?"
gave thoughtful treatment to the policy and practical questions confronting
zero-waste strategists. Personal and community commitments are to thank for
America's recycling success. That success, however, will continue to erode
unless we can muster the political will to hold industry responsible for
its wasteful ways.
Amato's article compares the amount of waste generated annually by
American households versus that generated by American industry. The subtle
implication is that people generate more waste than industry. Is this
really true, or are American households simply conduits for waste they
don't create but are responsible for managing, individually or with their
tax dollars?
Most consumers don't choose to mummify products in excessive
packaging. Consumers don't control the types of beverage containers offered
to them in stores and vending machines. Consumers don't choose whether to
use a tree or old newsprint to make their notebook paper.
Industry makes those choices for us -- and passes along their
inefficiency to consumers and municipal governments who must manage the waste.
Trade associations recite their tired mantra of "consumer choice
and the free market." Consumer choice is manufactured just like the
products they buy, and the free market is distorted by public policy that
underwrites wasteful virgin material production.
Producer responsibility is a cornerstone of zero-waste strategies.
Zero-waste is key to sustainable long-term economic security. Public policy
must move corporate practice in these directions.

Respectfully submitted,

David E. Wood
Policy Director
Center on Wisconsin Strategy
University of Wisconsin Madison
1180 Observatory Drive, Room 7122
Madison WI 53706