Table of Contents...
The Precaution Academy: Practical Training for Precautionary Action
If a precautionary approach is worth thinking about for
your community, why not attend The Precaution Academy in New
Brunswick, N.J. Mar. 31-Apr. 2? Three other sessions of the Academy
are set for other locations in the U.S. later this year, too.
A World Without Waste -- a Radio Series
From holes in the ground to smoking mountains, hi-tech incinerators
-- and a certain haze in the air. This is a series about trying to
make a world without waste. A world that's clean -- truly clean.
Zero Waste Definition and Business Principles
The Zero Waste International Alliance has defined "zero waste" and
has adopted "zero waste principles" to help businesses and governments
set their own zero waste goals.
Republicans Are Rewriting NEPA, Our Environmental Magna Carta
While our attention is focused on the Iraq war, Congressional
scandals and global warming, Republicans are busy rewriting the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the basic U.S. environmental
law that requires the federal government to consider consequences, and
alternatives, before spending our money. Can this be good?
From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #20, Jan. 11, 2006
THE PRECAUTION ACADEMY: PRACTICAL TRAINING FOR PRECAUTIONARY ACTION
First Precaution Academy Mar. 31-Apr. 2 in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Practical Training for Precautionary Action
The Science and Environmental Health Network (www.sehn.org) and
Environmental Research Foundation (www.rachel.org and
www.precaution.org) have created The Precaution Academy to offer an
intensive weekend of training to prepare participants to apply
precautionary thinking to a wide range of issues in their communities
and workplaces. The Academy is intended to serve the needs of citizen
activists, government officials, public health specialists, small
business owners, journalists, educators, and the engaged public.
Presenters and discussion leaders include Carolyn Raffensperger, Nancy
Myers, Ted Schettler, Katie Silberman and Peter Montague.*
The cost of the Precaution Academy in New Brunswick, N.J. is $350,
which includes hotel for 2 nights, plus six meals, and all
Participation is limited to 15 people. You may want to check with
Sherri Seidmon (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn whether space is available.
Send your check to Science and Environmental Health Network, P.O. Box
50733, Eugene, OR 97405
We have three full scholarships available for the New Jersey session
Mar. 31-Apr. 2. To apply for a scholarship, please tell us what
organization you are affiliated with, what constituencies you
represent, what you hope to get out of the experience, and your
organization's total budget. Preference will be given to people who
represent groups with financial need. Please also estimate your travel
costs if you will be applying for a travel stipend as part of your
scholarship. Send your scholarship request to:
Science and Environmental Health Network
Sherri Seidmon (email@example.com)
P.O. Box 50733
Eugene, OR 97405
At least two weeks prior to the date of the Academy, participants will
receive a copy of the new book, Precautionary Tools for Reshaping
Environmental Policy (MIT Press, 2006; ISBN 0-262-63323-X),
supplemented by a short workbook of articles. Academy participants are
urged to read selected portions of these materials before the session
begins on Friday evening.
All day Saturday and half a day Sunday, presenters will lead
discussions of the precautionary approach to problem-solving (and
problem prevention), with emphasis on real-world applications of
The purpose of the Precaution Academy is
** to prepare participants to apply precautionary thinking and action
to problems in their home communities and workplaces;
** to familiarize participants with the history of the regulatory
system, quantitative risk assessment, and the development of
precautionary thinking. What is different about the world today that
makes a precautionary approach necessary and appropriate?
** to clarify the different kinds of uncertainty involved in
contemporary problems and the role of precaution in addressing
** to prepare participants to respond to criticisms of the
** to help participants recast and rethink familiar problems and
issues within a precautionary framework, and to explore how a
prevention philosophy differs from a problem-management philosophy;
** to familiarize participants with some of the many ways that
precaution is being applied in the U.S., Canada and abroad so that you
can considering trying these approaches at home.
Other Precaution Academy Sessions planned for 2006 (Prices for these
sessions will vary according to costs.)
May 19-21 in Chicago
June 23-25 location to be announced
Sept 8-10 location to be announced
Participants will arrive at the Academy site on Friday afternoon. New
Brunswick, N.J. is readily accessible by train and automobile from the
New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. A train connects New
Brunswick with Newark Airport. After an evening meal, we will meet for
two hours to begin discussing the need for precautionary thinking in
the contemporary world, and how the precautionary principle developed
during the past 30 years.
We will meet from 9:00 to noon, take a 90-minute break for lunch, then
meet from 1:30 to 5:30. At 7:00 we will have dinner together. After
dinner, we will meet informally for a free-ranging discussion.
Goals for Saturday
** to prepare participants to put the precautionary principle to work
in their own areas of interest;
** to prepare participants to respond to criticisms of the
** to clarify the different kinds of uncertainty involved in
contemporary problems and the role of precaution in the face of
** to familiarize participants with a variety of ways that precaution
is being applied in the U.S. and elsewhere;
During this session we will discuss in detail the five elements of a
Goals for Sunday:
** to give participants experience recasting typical issues into a
** to make sure participants take home an understanding of the many
ways that precaution is being used in communities all across the U.S.,
Canada, and abroad.
We will meet from 9:00 to noon, gaining experience in reframing issues
from a precautionary perspective.
We will have lunch together, then go our separate ways so we can "try
this at home."
* Carolyn Raffensperger is executive director of the Science and
Environmental Health Network (SEHN) in Ames, Iowa. Nancy Myers is
communications director of SEHN; Ted Schettler is SEHN's science
director and Katie Silberman is SEHN's administrative director. Peter
Montague is director of Environmental Research Foundation in New
Brunswick, N.J., and an editor of Rachel's Precaution Reporter and of
Rachel's Democracy & Health News.
Return to Table of Contents
From: ABC and BBC, Jan. 8, 2006
A WORLD WITHOUT WASTE -- A RADIO SERIES
[This is part 1 of 4 parts. You can download all 4 parts
A world without waste
* About this series
* USA: From Garbage to Greenbacks
* The Philippines: Surviving Smokey Mountain
* Japan: Incineration Nation -- Burn or Bust
* China: The Race to Renew
USA: From Garbage to Greenbacks
The state of California is leading the way in waste management and
recycling in the USA. San Francisco is out in front, with an ambitious
target of zero waste by 2020. Already the city diverts more than 65
per cent of all rubbish away from landfill and into recycling and
The city has strict environmental legislation, which helps both
consumers and businesses to recycle and save money. Waste is seen
first and foremost as resource, with the city selling on its recycled
products to countries all over the world. Even food scraps from over
3000 restaurants are collected each day, composted and then sold to
farms and many of the state's 8000 vineyards.
San Francisco has state of the art recycling facilities and has even
banned the sale of disposable batteries and leaded paint, to ensure
they're not dumped. But trouble is brewing even in this eco-state.
Incineration -- banned in California -- might soon be making a comeback
under a new guise, which the community is vigorously fighting on all
Lynne Malcolm: Hello, I'm Lynne Malcolm and this is the start of a
journey exploring the possibility of 'A World without Waste'. Right
now governments, scientists and communities are struggling to find
solutions for the endless mountains of rubbish created each day from
what we consume and what we throw away. Sometimes we burn it,
sometimes we recycle it but all too often we dump it in open waste
sites like this one here in Manila--where people have to make a living
out of scavenging off the rubbish.
Over the next four programs in this Radio National series I'll return
to the Philippines and also visit Japan, China and the United States.
We'll discover how these countries are managing their waste problem as
they strive for a balance between economic prosperity and ecological
It's a concept with a long tradition in the state of California, where
our story begins:
Customer: These are all this year's crop, it probably just came in?
Customer: Okay, I'll go for the green ones.
A typical farmers' market in San Francisco, where choosy customers
pick over the best fruits and veggies that local producers have to
offer. As we'll hear later on, these markets play an important role in
the city's drive towards a concept called Zero Waste. It's about a
major commitment to reducing waste and increasing recycling. San
Francisco has entrusted this task to a newly created department of the
environment. Its director is Jared Blumenfeld:
Jared Blumenfeld: San Francisco has adopted the goal of getting to
zero waste by 2020, and to get to 75% by 2010. So at the moment, of
all the waste we produce, which is about 1.8 million tons per year, or
two Golden Gate Bridges (if you weigh the Golden Gate Bridge) of waste
is what we produce. 67% of that waste does not end up in landfill, so
it's either recycled or reused. It's a pretty ambitious, controversial
goal. We decided we needed to set a goal so we could actually get
that. When Kennedy set the goal of getting to the moon, no one
believed that it was possible--how could we land a man on the moon?--
but it happened. We think just having the goal stirs a debate about
what is zero waste and how we actually can plan to get that. So it's
definitely ambitious, some would say audacious, we believe it's
necessary and we're really looking at how we can get that.
Lynne Malcolm: The department is looking at a whole range of measures
to reach this goal of zero waste, including making recycling a legal
requirement, banning the sale of toxic materials that can't be
recycled and giving consumers financial incentives to buy
environmentally friendly products. It's this all-round approach which
captures the essence of what zero waste really means. Anne Leonard is
one of the area's leading environmental campaigners and a spokesperson
for GAIA, the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance.
Anne Leonard: We use a term called 'zero waste' which refers to a
collection of practices and policies to reduce waste at source and
then to safely recycle and compost the waste that is produced. On a
practical level, zero waste refers to these policies and practices,
but on a deeper level zero waste refers to a real paradigm shift in
how we deal with materials. Conventional waste management has just
assumed that ever-increasing amounts of waste are inevitable, and have
really been stuck in this sort of 'bury or burn' trap. Are you going
to burn it or are you going to bury it? It's this 'it's got to go
somewhere' mentality, or what are we going to do with it? And zero
waste really turns this conventional thinking on its head, it takes a
step back and says; are there ways that we can reduce this waste? Can
we design waste out of this system? Can we make products longer-
lasting? Can we address the root causes of over-consumption in a lot
of countries? Can we reduce the use of toxics so that the materials
that we are using are safer to keep in circulation in society? It
really looks at avoiding as much waste as possible from the start.
Lynne Malcolm: San Francisco is the world leader when it comes to zero
waste--two-thirds of the 1.8 million tons the city produces is
recycled or reused in some way. To achieve this they've developed a
unique relationship with the company that handles most of their waste;
Norcal. Garbage is a cut-throat business in the United States with
vast profits at stake. But Norcal, unlike many other companies, makes
its money not from what it dumps but from what it diverts, recycles
and sells for profit. Mike Sangiacomo is Norcal's CEO.
Mike Sangiacomo: If you have companies that control major quantities
of landfill capacity and they're publicly held, their goal is to fill
those landfills. Well, we're not in that position. We compete with
those companies, we have to find ways of doing things that are
different so we have a competitive edge. It helps that we have the
environmental bent. We are way ahead of other cities in this country
in terms of the types of materials we recycle...certainly collecting
any paper, bottles, containers, whether they're glass, plastic or
metal and finding reuses for them. We take food scraps and we turn
those scraps into a pretty high-value compost. We're selling that
product to over 50 California vineyards, we're selling it to organic
farmers, we're selling it to golf courses and landscapers. We're
looking, as well, at other uses for organic materials; things like the
production of liquid and solid fertilisers. We're looking at energy
production, whether it's taking organics and digesting them, capturing
the gases, and we're looking at things like ethanol production. If
that can be done in a way where more energy is produced in the ethanol
process than is consumed in making ethanol, we think there might be a
value in doing that kind of thing. And we take construction waste and,
rather than just throwing that in a landfill, find materials there
that can be used for other purposes. We're looking at everything in
the waste stream and trying to find something to do with it.
Lynne Malcolm: If you live in San Francisco, then outside your house
you'll have three dustbins or carts--a green one for food and yard
waste, a black bin for general rubbish and a blue one for recyclables
like paper, glass and plastic bottles. Norcal has built a state-of-
the-art recycling facility to process the contents of the blue cart
which has been the key to making recycling popular across the state.
Norcal's Robert Reed explains why:
Robert Reed: A growing trend in California is to allow people to put
all bottles, cans and paper together in one cart. In San Francisco
it's a blue cart, and we've distributed them throughout the city. We
then come along and collect the contents of the blue cart and we take
it to a recycling plant we built specifically to process bottles, cans
and paper. That plant is full of modern conveyer systems and things
called 'spinning disc screens' that temporarily suspend gravity so the
lighter materials float over the top. The paper goes upstream, the
heavier materials--the bottles and cans--they tumble downstream. Some
of these things can be separated mechanically. Unfortunately the
plastic bottles will not react to a magnet and so they must be hand-
sorted, and unfortunately there are too many different kinds of
plastic bottles in the waste stream--this is a problem--so we have
hand-sorters that separate and put the clear bottles in this location
and the coloured bottles in another location and the opaque bottle in
a third. But when we distributed the blue carts, recycling immediately
increased 25% because it made it very easy and efficient for the
customer to put all the bottles, cans and paper in the one container
and then go on about their business. It made recycling very fast, and
people like that. So this is a trend that is very popular in
Lynne Malcolm: It was time to get my hands dirty and find out how all
of this waste is dealt with. I followed the trail of the green and
black rubbish carts to a vast industrial complex on the edge of San
Francisco. It's where hundreds of tons of organic matter and general
household rubbish arrive each day. It's also home to the city's
construction waste, nearly all of which is sorted and recycled.
Plant manager is Kenny Stewart:
Kenny Stewart: This is our transfer station here. We currently have
around 2,000, 2,300 tons of trash that actually comes into this
facility on a daily basis. In San Francisco we have a three-cart
system; the black can is just household garbage, the green can is food
scraps and yard waste, and the blue can is recyclables. All the
recyclables will go to our other facility at Pier 96. The black can,
that's what you see there represented, that actually can't be recycled
and it goes off to a landfill, and the green can (I'll show you when
we go in the building) we currently see about 300 tons a day of food
waste, yard waste, and that's taken off to our other facility for
processing for compost.
Lynne Malcolm: We've just entered another building--what a sight! An
industrial nightmare; a riot of dumper trucks, mountains of rubbish,
and a complex network of conveyor belts and walkways. And what a
smell! Still, the seagulls seem to be enjoying it. Strangely though,
the place has a kind of order about it--everything seems to know where
it's going. So this is what a city's waste looks like.
Kenny Stewart: This is where all the debris boxes, construction
debris, comes from the city and county of San Francisco. From here it
goes on this conveyer up onto a shaker screen, and we pull wood,
cardboard, metal, plastic...the wood is put off to the other side. We
actually grind that up and it's sent off for fuel which is burned for
alternative energy. The plastic goes overseas for a plastic market
which is a new market that we're just embarking on right now. The
metal is also sent overseas. The sheetrock is sent up to our
composting facility and actually blended in for compost, and the
cardboard is baled and shipped overseas as well.
Lynne Malcolm: Further along is the penultimate resting place for what
goes off to the landfill as well as the composting centre. A huge pit
filled with two enormous mountains of rubbish.
Kenny Stewart: This is actually the size of a football field. This pit
that we're looking at is actually 16 feet deep, I believe it's 100
feet long. I've got ten stalls on each side. Right now, where you see
here, you're seeing around somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 tons
currently in this bit, and basically this is where everything comes
from San Francisco. This is not recycled, except for the yard waste
and the food waste. Now, our next level will be what you see here. Ten
years ago you saw wood, you saw metal, you saw plastics in this pit;
you don't see that anymore. What you see is a lot of plastic bags, a
lot of paper still. Because we're relying on the customer to do that,
we're going to have to take it a step further.
Vox pop 1: San Franciscans see recycling as a religion. It's
unbelievable. People take this very, very seriously, and so the ethic
around the importance of recycling is very high. People feel ashamed
if they haven't recycled properly. People will go to the ends of the
world to recycle Styrofoam; they'll drive 30, 40 miles. We get
hundreds of calls here a week, 'How do we recycle Styrofoam?' There's
one place down in San Jose that does it and people drive there.
Vox pop 2: I live on a piece of property with one other cottage and I
notice they don't take the labels off their cans or the tops off their
bottles, so I end up doing that a lot before...but almost every little
piece of paper that ever goes out of my house, unless it's soaked in
cat pee or something like that, goes into the recycling.
Vox pop 3: People tend to put something in a recycling bin and feel
good about themselves and then forget all about what's happening to
that item afterwards, and in the meantime new things are still being
produced out of the Earth's natural resources.
Vox pop 4: Yeah, recycling is great. Why not use as much as you can
without creating more...you know, try to get as much use out of
something that you can; that's a good idea.
Vox pop 5: A lot of my recycling goes to a local person that comes and
collects it in the neighbourhood, and they sell it and that's how they
support their family.
Lynne Malcolm: San Francisco's combination of legislation and
technology has given it a degree of success in the war on waste, but
across the bay, in the city of Berkeley, famous for its laid-back
approach to life, the recycling revolution is a little more low-tech
but it still gets the job done.
Shift workers get to grips with the day's waste at the Berkeley
recycling yard. I talked to Martin Bourque of the Ecology Centre, an
organisation that's managed the city's not-for-profit recycling
program for 30 years.
Martin Bourque: We have a manual sorting line. All this stuff goes up
over this conveyer belt, and as it goes across the conveyer belt
there's six staff people sorting by hand. First they pull out anything
that's not recyclable. The next person on line is going to be pulling
out the two kinds of plastic bottles. Then there's a magnet that pulls
off the tin. The next couple of people are sorting glass into three
different colours. If you don't sort your glass into three colours
then it's likely to become some sort of aggregate, either for asphalt
or may be put back on the landfill to cover it at the end of the day.
So people think they're recycling but it's actually being put back in
the landfill; we think that's atrocious, so we sort our glass into
three colours to make sure it gets turned back into bottles again. We
do collection from the kerb-side from about 36,000 residences, and we
also have a drop-off site here where people can come and drop off
materials that include scrap metal, cans, bottles, newspapers, cell
phones, PDAs, pagers, books, clothing--all kinds of materials. Then we
also have a buy back program, so if somebody comes in here with 200
cans then we pay them four cents for each one of those cans, plus the
scrap value of the material.
Lynne Malcolm: Berkeley and its big sister, San Francisco, seem on the
face of it to be working towards the same goal; increasing diversion
rates to get closer to zero waste. But they differ on how to achieve
that. In particular, the increasingly popular practice of throwing all
recyclables into a single bin--co-mingled recycling--is one that
worries Martin Bourque.
Martin Bourque: There are a lot of people in this industry who want to
make recycling as easy as possible for the consumer, and that is
important; the easier it is, the more tons you get, et cetera. But you
can't make ease for the customer outweigh the quality of the output of
the product, and we believe that it's significantly impacting the
wellbeing and health of the recycling industry. Many paper mills now
are beginning to not take recycled content, and it's really because of
the quality; they're getting a lot of glass in with their paper and
the glass turns back into sand and grinds through their mill and wears
out the machinery and costs them lots of money. They end up throwing
away a lot of material that they'd purchased. So everyone was really
excited about this highly automated...we'll get lots more volume,
we'll collect more tons, we'll save money on collections. But I think
what people are really finding when they really dig in is that most
programs, unless they're extremely well managed and have really good
equipment and somebody's really on top of it, making sure that the
quality is really good, most of these programs are collecting more,
recycling less and passing the cost upstream.
Lynne Malcolm: Back in the big city, quality is also something that
occupies the minds of shoppers and producers at one of the weekly
Much of the food here was grown using compost made from organic waste
collected in the green bins. Robert Reed from Norcal:
Robert Reed: We collect food scraps in the form of kitchen trimmings
and plate scrapings from businesses and from people's homes. We
collect 300 tons a day in San Francisco alone. We take this material
to a modern compost facility that we own and operate and we compost
it, and the result is a very nutrient-rich compost; it's rich in
nitrogen and potassium and potash or organic matter. The finished
compost is called Four Course Compost. It goes to vineyards and to
organics farms--it's approved for use on organic soils--and it
improves the soil structure on those farms, it allows the roots of the
plants to go deeper into the soil and reach more nutrients. You get a
microbial action; micro-organisms come and eat the food that's in the
compost, and that process makes these nutrients directly available to
the roots of the plants.
Vox pop 6: I'd like to try and close the loop in the earth, so using
organic compost as a way of sustainably farming, and so that's very
important to me. I also like the fact that I get to meet the local
people who actually grow the food rather than just have a corporation
deliver it to a store and not really have a face associated or a
farmer associated with the food.
Vox pop 7: I try and keep things as long as I can, and then if they're
going to go bad I make sure they are going to be compostable. I don't
buy too much quantity so I don't have a lot of waste, so just
preventing it so you don't even have to get to that point.
Vox pop 8: I keep a pile of garbage in my backyard that I intend to
compost one day but I haven't composted yet.
Vox pop 9: The produce--the fruits, the vegetables, the wines--come
back to San Francisco. In many cases they're served in the very
restaurants that generated the food scraps to begin with. So what you
end up with is a local closed-loop recycling program. There's very few
examples of that anywhere in the country, and it's been very embraced
by the restaurants and is working very well.
Lynne Malcolm: One of the first restaurants to take part in the food
scraps scheme was The Slanted Door run by celebrity chef Charles Phan.
His reputation and enthusiasm helped to kick-start the movement
amongst the city's eateries.
Charles Phan: Starting here, we have a blue colour bin, so you try and
get everything colour-coded. You can tell that paper, chicken...we
have here our broken glasses, our plastic, that gets all recycled. We
recycle our frying oil. Here is a little mistake; that paper shouldn't
be in there. It's a small mistake but I make a big deal out of it.
Growing up in Vietnam where we pretty much recycle everything, it was
really second nature to not throw everything away...we started out
composting just vegetables. Maybe a year into it they switched and
they say you can put meat, paper, all that product. It just literally
reduced out waste by 75%, and we're hearing these great stories that
they can sell the stuff and everybody likes it. I think being a chef,
in general you just don't want to waste, period. So by knowing that
you can put, let's say, the end pieces of a broccoli go to some good
use, you really just feel a lot better. When I come into the
restaurant in the morning, not only do I check my food and what it
tastes like, if they've prepared it properly, I have to check the
garbage. It just becomes second nature. Every morning I walk by, I
look at what they cut and I look inside the garbage can.
Lynne Malcolm: Another major Californian industry to reap the benefits
of the zero waste approach is winemaking. The state has around 1,100
wineries that together produce more than 500 million gallons of wine
each year. One of the most environmentally innovative is Fetzer. They
sell almost all their waste--cardboard, glass, paper and metal--
reducing what they take to the landfill by a staggering 95%. And
they've made big savings on water and energy use too. It's all part of
a drive towards sustainability which Fetzer's Ann Thrupp is now
teaching to other winemakers.
Ann Thrupp: There's a lot of interest in the California wine industry
in overall sustainable winegrowing practices. There's a state-wide
program that I'm also very much involved in; I'm the managing director
of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. And what that's
all about is providing information to people to improve the
sustainability or their practices, and people can do their own self-
assessment using this very extensive work book, on many parameters--on
energy, on materials, recycling, on human resource issues--so it's the
full range of sustainable practices, meaning environmentally sound,
economically viable and socially responsible.
Lynne Malcolm: On the way to the main Fetzer winery, two hours drive
north of San Francisco, you could easily think you were in Italy, with
its rolling green hills and endless vineyards. Patrick Healy showed me
some of the advances they've made, both on water and energy use,
starting with the bottling plant.
Patrick Healy: So the cases of empty glass come in from the outside,
goes down on this conveyer, the glass is dumped, and the boxes go off
to another area to meet the wine. The empty bottles come down here to
the filler room here where the bottles are filled...I think it's 320
bottles a minute can be filled here, and then into the corker. Then it
proceeds down the line and gets the caps all put on, and then runs to
the labeller and gets the labels put on. Then they get dumped into the
box, and then they go to the palletiser where they are all put on a
pallet and then someone comes along with a forklift, takes them and
puts them in the warehouse and stores them for shipment.
Water is really important to us here. We have our own wells. There's
not enough water in the local water district to support us. You can
see what a rural area this is. So we challenged quality control and
bottling to see if they could reduce the amount of hot water to
sterilise the filler bowls. That ultimately saved a million and a half
gallons of water a year.
Lynne Malcolm: This has helped reduce their water consumption by 30%.
They also have clever ways of saving energy, too, like covering some
of their buildings in earth to help insulate them, both from the heat
and the cold.
Patrick Healy: We're coming up on the red barrel room and the white
barrel room. The red barrel room, as you can see, has an earth berm
around it. We had an engineer do a study showing that we would save
about 40% of the energy used in that building, so we got a $60,000
rebate from Pacific Gas and Electric for undertaking that earth berm.
There's very little energy usage in that building; earth is a great
Ann Thrupp: Many of these innovations actually can save you money. It
can go hand in hand that the economic bottom line in fact is enhanced
by environmental and social investments.
Lynne Malcolm: It's good news that wineries, and many other
industries, are turning rubbish into a resource. But what about
engineering the waste out of products in the first place, during the
design and manufacturing stages? Jared Blumenfeld feels there's still
a long way to go--just take plastics for example:
Jared Blumenfeld: If you look on the bottom of any plastic, for
instance...just plastic, it goes one through seven, and it has a
recycling symbol. Just the number of plastic polymers is 249 plastic
polymers that go into those seven numbers. Only about six of those 249
can be recycled. So people are making products that cannot be recycled
and putting a recycled logo on the side. So there's lots that could
potentially be recycled but they aren't being. The most complicated
things to recycle will be appliances, computers, things that are made
out of multiple components that are very difficult to take apart. When
you think about a refrigerator, it's a relatively difficult job to
take that to pieces and make sure that every component part is
recycled properly. So the first thing is to work with designers to
make sure that products can be recycled.
Lynne Malcolm: The waste story in California seems like an optimistic
one, a place where garbage is increasingly being viewed as a resource;
something of value, rather than something to bury or burn. San
Francisco is definitely a role model for how a city could work towards
zero waste. But there's a bigger issue at stake than just rubbish, and
it has to do with turning back the tide of consumerism, something
still so central to the American way of life. So for Martin Bourque,
Ann Leonard and Jared Blumenfeld, there's still a lot of work to be
Martin Bourque: There are lots of new programs out there and we are
reaching new diversion goals and there is gained awareness in the
society at large. At the same time, we see new totally ridiculous
disposable products coming on line that are just obscene. You know,
why do you need a disposable toilet brush head that you can clean your
toilet and then flush it down the toilet? It's got one use. It's an
Anne Leonard: The amount of consumption that we have in the United
States is absolutely off the scale of sustainability, and I think that
we could definitely learn from other countries about how to meet our
basic needs in a more sustainable manner.
Jared Blumenfeld: All those discussions items around zero waste really
impact every other aspect of our life and our environment. So if you
can solve and get to zero waste, you're really setting up models for
solving all the issues around climate change, all the issues around
toxic releases that are facing our planet, and environmental health.
Lynne Malcolm: Jared Blumenfeld. Today's program was produced by Rami
Tzabar, with sound engineers Steven Tilley and Louis Mitchell. I'm
The next program in our Radio National series 'A World without Waste',
offers a stark contrast to the situation in the United States. I'll be
in the Philippines where, in the recent past, poor waste management
has cost hundreds of lives, forcing local communities to take a stand
in order to protect their health and livelihoods.
Global Anti Incinerator Alliance
San Francisco Dep't of the Environment
Zero Waste Alliance
Norcal -- The company that handles most of San Francisco's waste
California Integrated Waste Management Board
Berkeley Ecology Centre
Fetzer -- One of California's environmentally friendly wineries. The
company has reduced the amount of rubbish it sends to landfill by 95%.
Copyright 2005 ABC"
Return to Table of Contents
From: Zero Waste International Alliance, Nov. 29, 2004
ZERO WASTE DEFINITION AND BUSINESS PRINCIPLES
The Planning Group of the Zero Waste International Alliance adopted
the following definition of Zero Waste on November 29, 2004. This is
intended to assist businesses and communities in defining their own
goals for Zero Waste.
Zero Waste Definition
"Zero Waste is a goal that is both pragmatic and visionary, to guide
people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded
materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing
and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity
of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not
burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all
discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary,
human, animal or plant health."
This definition is intended to be a living document. Comments and
suggestions are welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any
comments or suggestions.
Zero Waste Business Principles
The Planning Group of the Zero Waste International Alliance adopted
the following Principles on April 5, 2005 to guide and evaluate
current and future Zero Waste policies and programs established by
businesses. These Zero Waste Business Principles will be the basis for
evaluating the commitment of companies to achieve Zero Waste. These
Principles will also enable workers, investors, customers, suppliers,
policymakers and the public in general to better evaluate the resource
efficiency of companies.
1. Commitment to the triple bottom line -- We ensure that social,
environmental and economic performance standards are met together. We
maintain clear accounting and reporting systems and operate with the
highest ethical standards for our investors and our customers. We
produce annual environmental or sustainability reports that document
how we implement these policies. We inform workers, customers and the
community about Life Cycle environmental impacts of our production,
products or services.
2. Use Precautionary Principle -- We apply the precautionary principle
before introducing new products and processes, to avoid products and
practices that are wasteful or toxic.
3. Zero Waste to landfill or incineration -- We divert more than 90% of
the solid wastes we generate from Landfill from all of our facilities.
No more than 10% of our discards are landfilled. No solid wastes are
processed in facilities that operate above ambient biological
temperatures (more than 200 degrees F.) to recover energy or
4. Responsibility: Takeback products & packaging -- We take financial
and/or physical responsibility for all the products and packaging we
produce and/or market under our brand(s), and require our suppliers to
do so as well. We support and work with existing reuse, recycling and
composting operators to productively use our products and packaging,
or arrange for new systems to bring those back to our manufacturing
facilities. We include the reuse, repairability, sustainable recycling
or composting of our products as a design criteria for all new
5. Buy reused, recycled & composted -- We use recycled content and
compost products in all aspects of our operations, including
production facilities, offices and in the construction of new
facilities. We use LEED-certified  or equivalent architects to
design new and remodeled facilities as Green Buildings. We buy reused
products where they are available, and make our excess inventory of
equipment and products available for reuse by others. We label our
products and packaging with the amount of post-consumer recycled
content and for papers, we label if chlorine-free and forest-friendly
materials are used. Labels are printed with non-toxic inks -- no heavy
metals are used.
6. Prevent pollution and reduce waste -- We redesign our supply,
production and distribution systems to reduce the use of natural
resources and eliminate waste. We prevent pollution and the waste of
materials by continual assessment of our systems and revising
procedures, policies and payment policies. To the extent our products
contain materials with known or suspected adverse human health or
negative environmental impacts, we notify consumers of their content
and how to safely manage the products at the end of their useful life
according to the takeback systems we have established, and shall
endeavour to design them out of the process.
7. Highest and best use -- We continuously evaluate our markets and
direct our discarded products and packaging to recover the highest
value according to the following hierarchy: reuse of the product for
its original purpose; reuse of the product for an alternate purpose;
reuse of its parts; reuse of the materials; sustainable recycling of
inorganic materials in closed loop systems; sustainable recycling of
inorganic materials in single-use applications; composting of organic
materials to sustain soils and avoid use of chemical fertilizers; and
composting or mulching of organic materials to reduce erosion and
litter and retain moisture.
8. Use economic incentives for customers, workers and suppliers -- We
encourage our customers, workers and suppliers to eliminate waste and
maximize the reuse, recycling and composting of discarded materials
through economic incentives and a holistic systems analysis. We lease
our products to customers and provide bonuses or other rewards to
workers, suppliers and other stakeholders that eliminate waste. We use
financial incentives to encourage our suppliers to adhere to Zero
Waste principles. We evaluate our discards to determine how to develop
other productive business opportunities from these assets, or to
design them out of the process in the event they cannot be sustainably
9. Products or services sold are not wasteful or toxic -- We evaluate
our products and services regularly to determine if they are wasteful
or toxic and develop alternatives to eliminate those products which we
find are wasteful or toxic. We do not use products with persistent
organic pollutants (POPs), PVC or polystyrene. We evaluate all our
products and offer them as services if we can do so by our own
company. We design products to be easily disassembled to encourage
reuse and repair. We design our products to be durable, to last as
long as the technology is in practice. We phase out the use of
unsustainable materials, and develop the technology to do so. Our
products can easily be re-made into the original product.
10. Use non-toxic production, reuse and recycling processes -- We
eliminate the use of hazardous materials in our production, reuse and
recycling processes, particularly persistent bioaccumulative toxics.
We eliminate the environmental, health and safety risks to our
employees and the communities in which we operate. Any materials
exported to other countries with lower environmental standards are
managed according to the Best International Practice as recommended by
These Zero Waste Business Principles are intended to be a living
document. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Please email
email@example.com with any comments or suggestions.
 LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
program of the U.S. Green Building Council
Return to Table of Contents
From: Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2006
A GOP KEY TO UNLOCKING NEPA
Party Links Environmental Law to Delay, Paperwork, Lawsuits
By Juliet Eilperin
House Republicans are hoping to rewrite one of the nation's most
sweeping environmental laws --in a way that could change how the
government gauges the impact of its actions on the land, sea and air.
For 36 years the government has relied on the National Environmental
Policy Act to serve as a check on federal activities that have a
"significant impact" on the environment. The law requires federal
officials to determine whether such things as highway construction and
flood-control projects will alter the surrounding landscape. And it
allows citizens to challenge the government's conclusions. Its scope
is so broad, the government conducts 50,000 "environmental
assessments" a year.
"There's a reason they call it the Magna Carta of environmental law,"
said Rep. Tom Udall (N.M.), who served as the top Democrat on the
House task force that examined the law. "NEPA is the most important
environmental statute, because it involves the public."
But Republicans such as Rep. Cathy McMorris (Wash.), who chaired the
20-member task force, said the law had led to "delays, excessive
paperwork and lawsuits" even as it helped guide the government. Late
last month her staff released a 30-page report, which is subject to
public comment for 45 days, suggesting possible fixes.
"I'm hoping we can find some common ground and move forward," McMorris
said in an interview, adding that the report should serve "as a
beginning point for discussion."
The GOP staff report, which was based on seven public hearings
lawmakers held across the country, proposes setting mandatory
deadlines for completing environmental assessments, giving greater
weight to comments by local interests, seeing if federal efforts
duplicate state evaluations of government activities, and defining
more precisely what constitutes a "major federal action" under the
"After carefully reviewing the testimony and comments, it is clear
[NEPA] is a valid and functional law in many respects," the staff
wrote. "However there are elements... that are causing enough
uncertainty to warrant modest improvements and modifications to both
the statute and its regulations. To do nothing would be a disservice
to all stakeholders who participate in the NEPA process."
Several environmentalists questioned the conclusions, noting that of
the 50,000 annual government environmental reviews, only 0.2 percent
led to lawsuits. They noted that the Clinton and Bush administrations
had assessed how the law was working, and both concluded the problems
stemmed from inadequate implementation, not the act itself.
Deborah K. Sease, legislative director for the Sierra Club, said the
language in the report was so "vague, you open the door to undermining
the principles of NEPA."
Each side can point to the law's virtues and faults.
Environmentalists note that scientists last year announced the
rediscovery of the presumed-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker along the
Cache River, which the Army Corps of Engineers planned to dredge until
citizens challenged the Corps' environmental analysis and blocked the
Mike Leahy, a staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, said the
existing law relies on a "look before you leap" principle that forces
the government to consider alternatives to environmentally damaging
But some timber companies say they have not been able to salvage trees
felled by forest fires in time because of the government's elaborate
regulations under NEPA.
McMorris said the report, if written into law, would not amount to a
radical overhaul of the existing rules. "It's building upon what has
already been written into law," she said. "After 35 years, I think
it's very appropriate to look at how the act is working and ask the
question 'Can the process be improved?'"
Copyright 2006 The Washington Post Company
Return to Table of Contents
Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?
We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we
believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
to know the arguments used by slaveholders.
Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
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As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
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