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Hello Tedd, and all who receive this response:
I agree with you, Tedd, and thank you for a very thoughtful and
generous response. Also, I now support and have always supported EPR
as well as ULS and source reduction in all its forms. And Mal, I'd
love for all of us Zero Wasters to "just get along." But my
complaint about the attack on recycling embedded in PPI's
argumentation is substantive and serious as I hope to show.
I have spent many hours debating these issues both in public and in
private with representatives of PPI. A couple of years ago, in a
NCRA public debate featuring Bill Sheehan and I, Bill put up an
astonishing powerpoint slide that neatly summarized the problem.
Here's what it said: EPR + composting = Zero Waste. PPI and its
affiliates are still using this gross reductionism today.
To anyone who works at a transfer station or landfill that is open to
the public, this formula does not match reality. What happened to
all the stuff from the built environment, from 200 to 400 years'
worth in most communities? It can never be affected by EPR, yet it
is the lion's share of stuff that's already produced and coming to
our transfer stations and landfills every day. It's invisible in
PPI's reckoning, yet they say we can ignore it and still somehow get
to zero waste.
Like you, Bill has told me in private that I should mute my critique
because after all, we are interested in the same goal. Fine, I
reply, just stop maligning me and all the other independent recyclers
on your way to proving your point.
I actually thought I had made some progress with PPI until the NCRA
Update conference on April Fools Day, where I picked up a new
brochure from the California Product Stewardship Council. The last
phrase on the foldout says "Developed with support from The Product
Policy Institute", and includes PPI's north star logo. Whatever the
beliefs of the CPSC, the brochure they are handing out to the public
is a rehash of pure and distilled PPI talking points, which have
remained remarkably consistent for the last several years.
Here's a quote from the flyer: "The simple fact is that existing
recycling efforts and disposal bans aren't reducing total waste
generation. Despite our best efforts, we're losing the
battle." (Elsewhere in other papers, Mr. Sheehan calls recycling a
"failure." And how many EPR-istas have you heard mouthing the
slogans "Oh, recycling, that's so twentieth century" or "so end-of-
pipe." For me, it's been a lot, way too many. In game theory this
behavior is a zero-sum game, meaning one side can't win without the
I believe that PPI's conceptual error begins with its uncritical
acceptance of the Franklin Institute's catechismic principle that
everything becomes waste the moment it is discarded, regardless of
what happens to it next. So all our attempts to reform the way we
think about discards -- calling them resources, for example, or
saying we dispose of them by conserving them -- is irrelevant.
"Waste generation" figures come not from transfer stations, not from
observing what is actually being dumped and either wasted or
conserved, but from Franklin Institute desktop studies of production,
read: "generation." Everything else in the discard supply is
irrelevant, invisible, inconsequential, by definition if not in
fact. This is sophistry.
In Berkeley, according to Peter Holtzclaw, our most recent Refuse
Superintendant, we sent 225,000 tons to landfill in 1990. At our
last Zero Waste Commission meeting Peter said that in a mere
seventeen years from 1990 that wasting tonnage had dropped to 95,000
tons, close to a 60% reduction. Doesn't this conflict with PPI's
ideology? True, there are probably more discards now than in 1990,
but that has nothing to do with what is being wasted. The brute fact
is that wasting numbers are down, way down, at Berkeley's regional
transfer station. Alameda County has many other jurisdictions that
are achieving these kinds of numbers. So we're not losing the
battle, we're winning! We should be analyzing the why of this, not
repeating false and misleading slogans that make us out to be
failures, enablers, "an afterthought," whatever.
When I told Rick Anthony of these wasting numbers in Berkeley he said
the same is true in the San Diego area. I'm sure Oakland and San
Franscisco, among others, can show similar Zero Waste progress.
Other parts of California aren't doing so well. But none of that
variation means anything to PPI, which trumpets our collective
failure across the board. (Mary Lou Van Deventer points out that
with the PPI's formulation, we could be reusing and recycling
everything discarded and still be losing the "waste generation
battle." Does this make sense?)
Other lowlites from the brochure:
• a pie chart showing "waste production is increasing" with 3/4 of
it colored mustard (products), and 1/4 colored green (food/yard).
• a bar chart showing "In US, product waste far outstrips all other
types". The mustard bar is 174.9 million tons; the green bar is 58
• a bargraph headlined "Waste Production (in California) is
increasing..." in which recycling numbers and wasting numbers are
combined to form a procession of bars marching ever higher, leading
to the illogical but waste-friendly conclusion that wasting equals
recycling because both are just different forms of "waste
• a paragraph that says "We suggest that manufactured product
discards be managed by producers or their agents. (italics mine).
Local governments should focus limited resources on managing things
that are grown -- (bolding mine) like yard trimmings and food scraps."
The phrase "...or their agents" might mean recyclers, but who
knows?. There's not a word in the whole flyer (printed expensively
with soy inks using wind power on 100% recycled oversized card
stock ) about resource recovery parks or the continuing need to
support them, too. That would be the "existing recycling efforts and
disposal bans", which have failed, wouldn't it? So why shouldn't
local governments conclude from this that they can safely stop
supporting their local discard management transfer facilities and
associated materials recovery businesses and convert them and the
land they are on to "higher" uses, like retail outlets for all the
imported goods we as American Patriots are supposed to be consuming?
Starting in 2007 in Berkeley we narrowly fought off an attempt to
rezone our entire transfer station complex for auto dealer use, part
of the City's plan to increase sales tax revenue to pay for their
employees' high salaries and huge retirement liabilities. It doesn't
matter to the Planning Department that the 60% waste reduction number
comes from the efforts and hard, effective work of six or eight
enterprises based at or near the transfer station complex . It
doesn't matter that it's hundreds of men and women working in "green
collar" jobs who are responsible for a big share of this cut.
Urban Ore's property was scheduled for similar upzoning; we and other
neighboring businesses fought like crazy and stopped it at the
Planning Commission level. But new threats pop up all the time, and
the industrial land we need for expansion is being nibbled to death
as we speak. PPI does not seem to think it has any responsibility
for this deplorable state of affairs, in its own way as threatening
to real Zero Waste as the more overtly hostile actions of the
Australian ACT government. I believe I have shown that their
argument directly supports moves and threats like this.
I did not pick this fight with PPI. My purpose is to defend
homegrown reuse, recycling, and composting, and to celebrate its
successes. I first began to notice the attack on recycling from the
EPR quarter about eight or ten years ago, but was too busy and
preoccupied with our business move to counter it then. Now I'm
playing catchup, but I really, really would like the EPR-istas to
develop a more truthful and more realistic approach to zero waste --
and EPR. Tedd, maybe you or some others could help them. I've
tried, to little effect so far as I can tell.
Dan Knapp, Ph.D.
Urban Ore, Inc.
PS: PPI is against banning, too, apparently. But I don't want to go
back to styrofoam cups in Berkeley or elsewhere, do you? And by the
way, who is paying for PPI to do this lobbying, anyway?
On Apr 16, 2008, at 3:35 PM, Tedd Ward wrote:
> Always a pleasure to read your analysis of the international
> movements and where they appear to be headed. Surely the news from
> Canberra is disappointing and I appreciate your perspectives on
> those developments.
> I must, however, strongly disagree with the statement ‘Zero Waste
> has also been commandeered as a brand by the Product Policy
> Institute, among others, and they and others have tried to make
> zero waste into a synonym for Extended Producer Responsibility…’
> I fully acknowledge that much of what is now referred to as ‘Zero
> Waste’ (at least within the wonky jargoneers) developed out of your
> years of good work on ‘Total Recycling,’ with the former term
> coming into widespread use largely due to the efforts of entities
> like GRRN, CRRA, ZWIA, and EcoCycle, followed by the CIWMB. I
> think if you refer to any of these sources, you will see that EPR
> is just one aspect of the Zero Waste approach.
> If any confusion arises between EPR and ZW, I think it is because
> ZW differs significantly from what has be termed ‘Integrated Waste
> Management’ (IWM) by targeting ways the current resource-product-
> discard system must change if the market system is to really reward
> resource and energy efficiency. I do not claim that your work on
> ‘Total Recycling’ ignored these systemic issues, but I think some
> people who are just learning about Zero Waste think something like
> ZW = IWM + EPR. This is not correct, just like ZW is not AB939 at
> 100% diversion. Both are incomplete understandings of the big
> picture advocated under the term ‘Zero Waste’.
> That said, I think there is no reason to slam PPI for
> advocating EPR, or for their advocating EPR as part of a system
> moving towards Zero Waste. That is what they do. EPR is
> complicated enough, and I for one would not criticize an advocate
> of EPR (we need many more), for not going into adequate detail of
> other non-EPR aspects of ZW or Total Recycling. Similarly, I
> would not blame Urban Ore for not covering the many ways the system
> producing waste is subsidized (or the need for EPR) during a tour
> of your impressive facilities and programs. Nobody is completely
> right or comprehensive all of the time, and there is no reason to
> expect it.
> True, EPR actions in California for HHW products have some momentum
> right now because local gov’ts are being asked to set up separate
> financially unsustainable systems to handle hazardous products, and
> agencies like ours simply cannot afford to capture more than 15% of
> these streams. So right now EPR has some urgency from the local
> gov’t perspective for hazardous materials from the moment a product
> or material is designated as hazardous or needing to be managed
> separately from the organics stream. Given that EPR is such a big
> change from our current system, will likely have strong industry
> opposition, and that it will take coordinated advocacy from local
> gov’ts, I am not surprised that EPR has eclipsed all other ZW
> actions for the moment for many. In fact, I encourage all local
> gov’t types reading this post to get involved with the important
> work of the California Product Stewardship Council. Check out:
> Similarly, policy wonks for EPR and ZW should continue to be
> respectful (and acknowledge the continuing contributions) of all of
> us in recovery ‘at the back end.’ We each have a piece of the
> puzzle, and each piece is important.
> Yours in recovery,
> Tedd Ward, M.S. - Program Manager
> Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority
> 1700 State Street
> Crescent City, CA 95531
> (707) 465-1100
> "My life is garbage, but I'm in recovery."
> From: email@example.com
> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Dan Knapp
> Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 12:30 PM
> To: Gary Liss
> Cc: CRRA Listserve; GreenYes subscribers; email@example.com;
> firstname.lastname@example.org; ZWBusiness@no.address;
> email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
> ZeroWasteCommunities@no.address; email@example.com;
> Chris Harris; Mary Lou Van Deventer; Mark Gorrell; Neil Seldman;
> Maxine Narburgh; Gerry Gillespie; Carolyn Brooks; David Tam; arthur
> boone; Paul Connett; Tania Levy; Rick Anthony; Anne Rabe; Bill Sheehan
> Subject: [CRRA] Re: [GreenYes] Join us for LA Zero Waste Plan
> Conference 5/3/08
> To All:
> As many of you know, the proximate source of inspiration that
> launched the worldwide movement for zero waste in 1996 was the
> Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government in Canberra,
> Australia. Earlier efforts in the same direction had primarily
> focused on total recycling, of which I was and still am a champion.
> Now those of you who are celebrating further successes in what I
> recently called "zero waste goalism" would do well to understand
> and acknowledge that zero waste goals mean less than nothing when
> there is no will to make real zero waste happen. The proof is, once
> again, Canberra Australia, which in mid-2007 opened its new $11
> million landfill cell after using up the entire hillside landfill
> site (supposed to be its last) that it called the Mugga Lane
> landfill. Further proof: ACT NoWaste's attacks on Revolve, the
> nonprofit landfill scavenger business that really invented the
> Australian concept of zero waste; ACT's refusal to build the Zero
> Waste Resource Recovery Park on land set aside in 1996 or 1997 for
> the purpose with money made from their profits on wasting; ACT's
> attempts to restrict competition for the discard supply so that
> more waste, not less, goes into landfill; and ACT's tardy removal
> of "no waste by 2010" from ACT NoWaste's publicity materials,
> trucks, and logos. Until they removed the date in 2006 and 2007,
> the zero waste goal functioned in Canberra as a cloak to hide their
> waste-friendly actions. Now they've finally owned up to their
> betrayal of the public's trust.
> So beware! I presented a ten-minute powerpoint on Canberra relying
> on my site visit to Canberra in April of 2007 as well as on photos
> and correspondence from Gerry Gillespie and Carolyn Brooks at the
> annual Recycling Update conference in Oakland, CA sponsored by the
> Northern California Recycling Association. It was immediately
> labeled a "cautionary tale" by Tom Padia of StopWaste.org and
> others in the audience of 170 recycling professionals.
> Zero Waste has also been commandeered as a brand by the Product
> Policy Institute, among others, and they and others have tried to
> make zero waste into a synonym for Extended Producer
> Responsibility. This is no less false and misleading than
> Canberra's brand of sophistry, in my opinion, because it dismisses
> honest hardworking recyclers dealing everyday with the gazillions
> of tons of discarded materials flowing from the built environment
> to landfill and transfer stations that have already been
> manufactured and therefore can never be affected by EPR.
> I see EPR as an important part of source reduction (the "reduce"
> part of "reduce, reuse, recycle" imperative), but only a part. When
> you look closely at what EPR-istas concentrate on, it is mostly low-
> tonnage but important stuff like household toxics, pharmaceuticals,
> and the like. All well and good, and more power to them, but let's
> not forget other potent source reduction tools like ULS (Use Less
> Stuff), the focus of Annie Leonard's popular new video.
> And let's support total recycling in source-separation-based 12
> category resource recovery parks and celebrate them when, against
> long odds, they somehow or other get built and occupied by real
> recyclers producing quality feedstocks.
> The other two legs of the 3R tripod should not be subject to
> insults like "so twentieth century" and "so end-of-pipe", but they
> are thanks to EPR zealots.
> Dan Knapp, CEO
> Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling business in Berkeley,
> California since 1980
> On Apr 11, 2008, at 11:25 AM, Gary Liss wrote:
> Apologies for Cross-postings & please forward to colleagues who may
> be interested
> The 3rd Citywide Conference for the Los Angeles Zero Waste Plan is
> Please join us for the 3rd Citywide Conference for the Zero waste
> Plan. This will be the final conference for Phase 1 of the project
> and will be a celebration of all of the hard work and input
> provided by you, the stakeholders, for the Zero Waste Plan thus
> far! The conference will be on May 3, 2008 at the Cathedral of Our
> Lady of Angels conference center from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm. The
> Cathedral is located at 555 W. Temple Street in downtown Los
> Angeles.. All conference attendees will receive complimentary parking.
> Don't forget! We will also be having a Zero Waste Film Festival
> from 7:30-8:30 am along with a complimentary continental breakfast.
> A complimentary lunch will be served later in the day.
> This is the chance for you to sign off on the Guiding Principles
> for the plan, join your fellow stakeholders in celebration for the
> first year being completed and for you to share your SWIRP story
> with others.
> Want more information? Please contact Rebecca Wood at
> firstname.lastname@example.org . Tell your family, friends, coworkers
> and neighbors about this special event and RSVP with Vikki Zale via
> email at email@example.com or via phone at (310) 822-2010.
> Gary Liss
> Fax: 916-652-0485
> Messages in this topic (2)Reply (via web post) | Start a new topic
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