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[GreenYes] Re: The Death of Recycling?

I think we have to learn from nature. When we eat and drink, we produce
waste. Since "there will always be waste", maybe the best philosophy to
work on is how best we can make use of it. In Singapore, to curtail
their reliance of buying water from Malaysia, they have successfully
treated sewage water to the point that it is safe to drink. In fact, for
centuries, urine has been used as a traditional cure.

<-----Original Message----->
>From: Doug Koplow [koplow@no.address]
>Sent: 4/14/2007 2:32:21 AM
>To: Reindl@no.address;GreenYes@no.address
>Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Re: The Death of Recycling?
>OK, we've been challenged by Peter to respond to this on GreenYes, so
here are
>some thoughts to get the debate moving:
>1) Dr. Palmer highlights how different Zero Waste is from recycling,
>recycling focuses on the low-end of the value chain rather than
>production. This seems a somewhat this is an artificial distinction.
>has, as long as I've been working on the issue, been at the lower end
of the
>recycling hierarchy. At the very top was Source Reduction, which seems
>include many of the attributes Palmer assigns to Zero Waste. Is it
mostly a
>rebranding and increased emphasis on source reduction, or are there
>differentiating factors I'm missing?
>2) Some of the criticisms about Zero Waste being a figment ("there will
>be waste") also seem misguided. I look at the term in the same way as I
look at
>"Zero Defects." It is a long-term objective, rather than a statement of
>Companies still have defects (in their processes as well as their
products) even
>after years in a zero defects program. But hopefully they have improved
the way
>they operate so they make fewer mistakes, equally importantly, they
identify the
>ones they do make much more quickly. Zero Waste should have the same
aims: not
>only reducing waste steadily over time, but also improving the systems
by which
>we understand how and why waste is generated, and the accuracy by which
>measure our waste generation patterns.
>3) I fully agree with Palmer's frustration about recycling, 20-30 years
>still muddling with low grade materials recovery. Glass collections in
>Boston area are being used for landfill aggregate, and this is termed
> Much of our high value paper still ends up being burned (helped, no
doubt, by a
>range of federal subsidies that favor burning for energy over
recycling), or in
>low grade mixes shipped off to China. I've spent three months trying to
>validate the fate of some of the paper fractions that major cities in
this area
>segregate and think they are recycling. It is clear that at least some
of these
>materials are not being repulped. At the very least, finding out about
>materials disposition should be easy, not hard. Without that
>there is little pressure on market participants to fix the problems and
to innovate.
>So where is the failure? I think the recycling community, including
>municipalities, has done a poor job forcing responsibility for product
>contaminants back up on the manufacturers. If blue glass screws up
>mixes, or polycoat paper can be handled only by very view mills in the
world, or
>some packaging is PVC and contaminating other resin streams, it should
be the
>manufacturers problem. The manufacturers should be so cognizant that
>incompatible materials will become their problem that they work with
>to iron out the system well before they introduce these materials into
>I think there has been a measurement failure as well -- and here I
think the
>federal EPA has not lived up to what could have been its role.
Diversion data I
>look at is buggy, inconsistent, often self-reported. Many in the
>chain have an interest of puffing up the numbers. The federal EPA could
>done much more to establish best practices and perhaps "out"
communities where
>reported numbers were particularly inaccurate.. I think they have also
>on the industrial side by not measuring and reporting the technical
>on the ground for materials beneficiation in a semi-annual technical
>capabilities survey. Computerized cullet and resin separation have
entered the
>marketplace, but costs remain high and deployment fairly slow. How much
>effectively can paper waste streams be segregated by fiber type today
than in
>1985? In what other areas might innovation change the dynamics of
>production and recovery?
>EPA has a fairly large program aimed at landfill methane capture for
energy --
>despite growing evidence, according to Peter Anderson, that the vast
majority of
>methane escapes fugitively even from landfills with collection systems.
>attention on waste avoidance and recovery would perhaps be a better use
>resources. Landfill emissions, after all, can simply be dealt with by
>regulating them more stringently as a pollutant.
>4) Product chains are complicated, more so than "The Death of
>outlines. Would making computers more repairable always be a good
>Refrigerators? There is always a tradeoff between capital extension and
>improved operating costs (including energy efficiency) and operating
>characteristics. There are also trade-offs between open standards for
>reusability and innovation. Palmer wants all circuit board
configurations to be
>public as a prerequisite for them being able to enter the marketplace.
>will assumedly help their reuse and repair (though probably less than
he hopes
>due to the dramatic improvements in each successive chip generation).
>development of those boards has required millions of dollars of
investment, and
>publicity could well erode the competitive position of the developers.
If this
>happened, and the pace of innovation in circuit boards slowed down
(though board
>reuse rose), would we as a society be better off? Not at all clear to
me, given
>the many important systems that rely on microchips, and that new
generations of
>microchips help make these systems more efficient over time.
>Making production chains more accurately reflect resource costs -- both
>inputs and disposal -- would be a great thing. It would probably result
in many
>improvements in the environmental profile of manufacturing and
>Product life might be extended in some areas. But not all, and turnover
in some
>areas is a good thing, not a bad one.
>-Doug Koplow
>Doug Koplow
>Earth Track, Inc.
>2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
>Cambridge, MA 02140
>Tel: 617/661-4700
>Fax: 617/354-0463
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