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[GreenYes] Re: The Death of Recycling

At 04:09 PM 5/3/2007 -0500, Reindl, John wrote:

>There has not been as much discussion of this
>issue as I would have thought, so maybe these
>comments will elicit some more response.
>I have been disappointed with the Zero Waste movement on several counts.
>First, the emphasis has been on Zero Waste to
>landfills and incinerators, with an almost
>exclusive emphasis on recycling. There has been
>almost a recycling über alles attitude -- that
>it is the silver bullet to solve all our
>problems. Now I am seeing some touting
>manufacturers' responsibilityas the solution to implement Zero Waste.
>As I have written on this list many times, I
>think that this approach can result in an
>increase in negative environmental impacts. I
>recommend that we work for minimizing total
>environmental impact as a method to increase the
>sustainability of materials management, and not
>limit ourselves to a few parts of the system or a few potential solutions.

Dear John:

You have written these things may times and I
have thought about it each time I have read
it. A response (not a rebuttal....):

Yes, of course, we should try to be aware of
"total environmental impact," for many reasons,
not the least being that environmental regulatory
program managers tend to be satisfied to get the
impacts transferred to another medium.....

But determining relative "total impact" is no
trivial matter, involves many judgement calls, and tends to become "political."

As an advocate I have become dubious about
creating processes that can be controlled by the
party able to hire the most experts. With money,
I can hire a regiment of experts to swear on
stacks of bibles that the moon is made of green
cheese. Worse, I can get my experts to claim
that, say, a community should live with
incinerator emissions for some greater good....

I agree that much foolishness results from
failure to analyse the actual consequences of
something before doing it, and there is more than
enough foolishness of this sort in materials
management. But I think the perversities come in
much higher scale from the garbage industry and
market/economic distortions than from misguided idealists.

Zero Waste is a concept. Like any concept it can
be implemented well or not well. But rejecting
Zero Waste due to bad examples is like rejecting
democracy because Bush was twice
elected.... Yeah, its discouraging and
inexcusable, but is there a better game?



>Second, I have been disappointed with some of
>the promoters of the Zero Waste effort,
>especially in their rigidity in not evaluating
>any input from others. There seems to be a tacit
>assumption by some that all critiques are
>negative -- that their approach is beyond improvement.
>In one particular situation, in a state other
>than mine, a proposal was put forward under the
>banner of Zero Waste for the collection of food
>scraps from household and businesses, with the
>material to be trucked to the municipal waste
>water treatment plant. I noted that a PhD on
>the relative impacts of a variety of food scrap
>handling approaches was done at the University
>of Wisconsin, and that the project proponents
>may want to both look at it and do an
>environmental analysis of their proposal. These
>suggestions were rebuffed and I was told that if
>I thought an environmental analysis was
>worthwhile, then I should find the funding for
>that aspect of their project. I was surprised by
>this reaction -- although we ask the business
>community to look at the environmental impacts
>of their projects, for some reason the
>proponents of this food recovery project
>believed that their project need not need
>similar review. It seemed to me then -- and in
>other contacts with other proponents of Zero
>Waste -- that most comments for improvement are rejected.
>Having been in the solid waste field for over 35
>years, I have seen many ideas come and go,
>including those that people thought at one time
>were true beyond doubt. I would hope that we
>would continue, as it says at our local
>university, to "sift and winnow" in the search
>for the truth, wherever it takes us, and to be comprehensive in this search.
>John Reindl, Recycling Manager
>Dane County, WI
> From the 1894 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin:
>"Whatever may be the limitations which trammel
>inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the Great
>State University of Wisconsin should ever
>encourage that continual and fearless sifting
>and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found"
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