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[greenyes] Recycling and the Cities
Pat Franklin sent a copy of news reports concerning more recycling cuts:

    "We've been hearing for months that growing budget deficits might result
cuts to curbside recycling programs.  Here's news of a proposal to cut the
curbside program in Cleveland, OH."

In that story is a call for action to guide us to a better future. Here's

In 2001 I copied GreenYes with a memo that I had sent to the NRC warning
about reports showing that most cities had exhausted their "rainy day" funds
that year. I predicted that, unless the economy turned around fast, we
should expect to see major efforts to cut back curbside programs in the
cities in 2002-2003 as they grapple with where cuts in existing programs
will be imposed -- police - libraries - recycling.

I urged that we develop a strategy to anticipate the inevitable attacks in
order to be prepared constructively to meet the issue, but that didn't
happen, unfortunately.

With the facts showing that in less than optimally designed and operated
recycling programs, the overall waste handling costs are greater with
recycling than without it, we have been losing many of these battles.  But,
that is NOT because recycling costs more when all of the costs are counted.

Our problem is that recycling's competition -- landfills -- are massively
subsidized, largely in the form of environmental regulations that are
fatally weakened for the deliberate purpose of making it look like
landfilling is less costly than diversion and other options.  If tip fees
were $60, $70 or more per ton -- where they would be were landfills required
to be designed to, in fact, protect the environment, then not only would
recycling thrive economically (instead of hanging on by our fingernails),
but we could greatly expand diversion from 30-35% to over 75%.

This late in the game, there's not much more that we can do regarding the
ongoing erosion of our programs in the cities until the economy turns around
from this business cycle other than aggressively opposing cutbacks like in C
leveland and many others before.

But, we can embolden our future.  For most of the landfill establishment has
now acknowledged that the current designs for landfills based upon liners to
keep them dry and biologically inactive will "ultimately fail," in the words
of EPA's technical staff. To dodge that bullet, they are now proposing to
instead to do the opposite, flood the site to accelerate decomposition.
This is the "bioreactor" approach.

Whatever theoretical opportunities exist such a role reversal, were cost no
object, the industry gameplan is to spec out bioreactors on the cheap,
again, to deliberately sacrifice safety to force recycling out of the

I mention this because next year EPA will be proposing bioreactor rules and
every indication that they've given suggests that they will countenance
cutting corners at every turn for the deliberate purpose in sacrificing
safety just in order keep recycling uneconomic.

Please keep posted for alerts in the coming months from recycling and
environmental groups about how you can become involved to, finally, make it
possible for recycling to succeed economically, and not just rely upon the
weak reed of government mandates.


Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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