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I'd like to sound a note of caution regarding setting incremental goals 
toward zero waste.  While incremental goals are often useful, they can 
also lead programs astray and into dead-ends that won't ever get to zero 
waste.  For example, if a goal is set to recycle 25% of soda bottles by 
2004, 50% by 2006, 75% by 2008, etc., then the focus will be on recycling 
bottles, and money will be spent on recycling programs, infrastructure, 
etc.  On the other hand, if the goal is to use exclusively refillable 
bottles by 2010, then it's possible that many fewer bottles will be 
recycled in the intervening years.  However, at the end of the period, 
there will be zero (or darn close) bottles thrown away.  The money will 
instead be spent on retooling bottling plants, implementing public and 
corporate policies for reuse, etc. 

Zero waste requires a shift in thinking about material & energy cycles, 
from the proverbial cradle-to-grave to cradle-to-cradle.  Sometimes it 
doesn't come in steps, but leaps.

Sharon Gates
Recycling Specialist
City of Long Beach, California

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