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#16 -- Recipes for Refuse, 14-Dec-2005

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter #16

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005.........Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Table of Contents...

A Precautionary Approach to Municipal Trash: Zero Waste
At its core, the foresight/precautionary principle says, "Take
action to prevent harm." If you apply foresight to the problem of
municipal trash, you get "zero waste" -- preventing many of the
problems of municipal trash by viewing it as a resource, not something
to be wasted.
Clearing the Way for Zero Waste
Here's some background on zero waste, as it looked in 2001. Be sure
to note the "policies needed to support zero waste" in this article.
Where to Learn More About Zero Waste
Here is a short list of resources you and your local officials can
tap to learn more about the "zero waste" approach to municipal
discards.
More Background On the Precautionary Approach to Trash
Here's another good overview of the "zero waste" approach to
municipal trash, written in 2001 by Jim Motavalli, the prolific editor
of E-Magazine.
Europe Compromises Again On Its REACH Chemicals Policy
This week, Europe's precautionary chemicals policy, called REACH,
took another important step toward becoming law, but it got watered
down further along the way, demonstrating the enormous unaccountable
power of the chemical industry worldwide. Can elected national
governments control corporations? That's what's at stake here.

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From: Common Ground, Dec. 12, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

RECIPES FOR REFUSE

Paul Palmer Wants to Eliminate Garbage as We Know It

By Jordan E. Rosenfeld

If Earth had its own superhero to protect it from the waste-
accumulating tendencies of humans, Paul Palmer, a 'zero waste'
activist and PhD chemist from Yale, could be a contender. Graced with
visions of solutions to our culture's excesses, Palmer has spent more
than 30 years proving that 'un-recyclable' chemicals can be recycled,
and in his new book, Getting to Zero Waste [ISBN 0976057107], he
busts the myth that garbage is as inevitable as death and taxes.

Like any superhero worth his cape, Palmer is a self-professed
"maverick" who claims not to listen to proscribed wisdom or to have
much respect for authority, which makes it hard to imagine how he held
board-level positions on the Sonoma County Local Waste Management Task
Force and the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Management Commission.
His life's work is about nothing less than rescuing humanity from its
own refuse. And he's tried every avenue to get people to listen.

Though Palmer has the blueprints to obliterate garbage as we know it,
he's up against the powerful propaganda generator of the existing U.S.
garbage industry, which produces more than $44 billion in annual
revenue -- 76% of that in the private, mostly-corporate sector
according to a 2002 study by the Environmental Research and Education
Foundation.

"People will tell you that garbage has always been and always will
be," said Palmer by phone from his Sebastopol home. "How do they know
that? There's no scientific analysis that says this. The reason for
their beliefs is that the garbage industry is extremely powerful. And
it's so secretive that people don't realize there is such thing as a
garbage industry. It's very subtle and clever; they run under the
radar."

Because garbage is split into private and public sectors, corporate
garbage companies like Waste Management Inc. (which runs Novato's
Redwood Landfill), can hide behind the public service facade of the
nonprofit, government-run services.

"The public treats garbage like, 'Hey, there's my friendly garbage man
taking away my trash'," Palmer says. "We're brainwashed."

Palmer refuses to use the term "landfill," which he says was crafted
from the "PR ether of corporations."

"Landfill makes it sound like land that is just waiting to be filled
up with garbage. It's a dump! It's a pit dug in the ground where we
throw stuff we don't use."

Goodbye To Garbage Trucks

Palmer's recipe for a zero-waste future might seem radical to those
who take garbage for granted. In his vision, there are no friendly
garbage men riding the green truck every week because there are no
pits in the ground in which to bury trash. People visit "filling
stations" that sport spigots and bins, and they carry their own sturdy
containers to be filled with all the products used on a daily basis in
homes and businesses -- from food to cleaning supplies. Manufacturers
design products to be easy to repair and reuse, and are held
financially responsible for any waste produced. And most importantly,
there is little money to be made from dumps, garbage service or
recycling centers because consumers have broken free from the need to
dispose, having cleaved to reuse instead.

Palmer admits it's a vision not likely to be realized in his lifetime,
but that doesn't stop him from preaching the zero-waste gospel and
living it, too. He creates as little waste as possible through
burning, composting and reusing.

"People are in love with the idea of their garbage," he said. "When
they decide to do spring cleaning, there is no infrastructure to help
them -- except to bring out a dumpster or possibly take a few things
to Goodwill.

"Here we have a society that lovingly crafts resources into all kinds
of specialized usage, devices, applications and then, when one little
thing goes wrong, we put it in a dump. Think of all the energy lost
there."

As defined by the EPA, garbage is "something that has no owner or is
unwanted by someone who owns it," Palmer says. "So If I throw away a
perfectly good drum of chemical solvent, it becomes waste."

Palmer's former recycling business, Zero Waste Systems, founded in
1973 in Oakland, was one of the first in the state to find creative
reuse solutions to chemicals that were considered un-recyclable --
from Freon coolant found in old refrigerators to abandoned industrial
solvents.

"We reused things directly by the application of intelligence and
designed ways to reclaim a lot of the chemicals used in the Bay Area.
For example, I looked up the ingredients to something the electronics
industry calls 'resist developer' and discovered these were the same
two ingredients in lacquer thinner. So I canned it and sold it as
lacquer thinner."

He'd like to see the EPA create a database that tells how chemicals
can be used so that a plant or company with an excess of a chemical
can sell it to other users, rather than dump it. The result of
dumping, he says, leads to "unknown chemicals undergoing unknown
reactions at unknown times deep in huge pits dug in the ground."

Palmer says all this and more in Getting to Zero Waste, which he
hoped would act as a kind of "sparkplug" to generate people to
organize local zero-waste movements.

No Time Left to Waste

For those who feel just a little bit better about their trash habits
because they recycle, Palmer is sorry to say, "What we know as
recycling is the lowest possible form of reuse. When you break a
bottle, you lose 98 percent of its value and you've wasted all the
labor and material resources that went into making it.

"Recycling has been a wonderful phase we've gone through; it's been
responsible for an advance in awareness, but now it's time to move on
and work on the design principles of products."

The State of California's Integrated Waste Management Board, which
oversees the regulation of garbage, has joined the cause, adopting a
long-term zero-waste goal, which will eventually effect new garbage
regulations.

Recent activist movements can be cause for inspiration, too, Palmer
suggests. If people can mobilize by the thousands to protest the war
in Iraq, they can also push for zero-waste agendas.

"Representative Lynn Woolsey told me that politicians need to see this
is an issue that voters care about. I've been working on a petition to
get 1,000 signatures. Maybe she can slip it into a budget bill," he
chuckles.

Meanwhile, reuse remains the number one method to prevent waste, and
it's a strategy that can be adopted at any time by any one. Diverting
waste from dumps is important, especially since composting organic
matter in dumps adds to the production of unhealthy and global-warming
methane gasses.

"There are hundreds of small success stories," Palmer says, citing a
friend of his in Sebastopol who found a creative solution to his yard
waste. "Michael had all these trimmings from his apple trees that he
decided were going for naught. He shredded up this apple wood for use
in grills and sells it. He's having success with it as a barbecue
enhancer.

"Zero waste is an uphill struggle," Palmer admits, "but we've got to
start taking responsibility for our waste now."

Jordan E. Rosenfeld is a Petaluma-based writer and editor. Her bi-
monthly show, "Word by Word: Conversations with Writers," can be heard
on KRCB (91 FM) in Rohnert Park. She can be reached via email:
writelife@earthlink.net

COMMON GROUND -- 305 San Anselmo Ave. Suite 313 San Anselmo, CA 94960
Phone: 415.459.4900 Fax: 415.459.4974

Copyright 2005 COMMON GROUND

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From: Resource Recycling, Mar. 15, 2001
[Printer-friendly version]

CLEARING THE WAY FOR ZERO WASTE

By Kivi Leroux

A business leader, a consultant, a local government official, and an
activist share their perspectives on what's next for the zero waste
movement.

Six years ago, a group of California recycling activists decided that
the old "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra just wasn't cutting it
anymore. Something bold and new was needed to clearly link recycling
with larger environmental and economic issues--something that would
reenergize both recycling professionals and the public. After much
debate and collaboration with other recycling activists across the
country, "Zero Waste" was born.

When the zero waste movement began to take off a few years ago,
fronted largely by the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), it was
perceived by many as a group of activists interested in rousing the
public into consumer action against corporate America's wastefulness.
While many in the recycling community still associate zero waste with
GRRN's demands that Coca-Cola increase its use of recycled content in
PET bottles, zero waste as a concept and as a movement is spreading
beyond the picket lines. The term zero waste and what it stands for
are now just as likely to be discussed in city halls and corporate
boardrooms. The perspectives of four advocates of zero waste-a
business leader, a consultant, a local government official, and an
activist-forecast the future of the zero waste movement.

Defining just what the phrase zero waste means and making the term
easily understood in the public and private sectors alike is probably
the movement's biggest challenge in the next few years, says Jim
Bosch, manager of environmental services for Target Corporation and
former chair of the National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled
Business Alliance. Just as recyclers debated precisely what types of
recovery constituted recycling and what qualified as recycled content,
zero waste advocates themselves do not always agree on the best ways
to describe zero waste.

For Bosch, waste is a measure of inefficiency. Therefore, zero waste
is about eliminating inefficiency, a concept that corporate America is
much more likely to embrace than the idea of giving up their garbage
dumpsters for good. Bush has incorporated this definition into
Target's environmental goals, and he believes that the zero waste
movement will be more successful in gaining corporate support if it
characterizes zero waste in these terms.

The staff of the Del Norte [County, Calif.] Solid Waste Management
Authority
, the first municipality in the United States to adopt a
comprehensive zero waste plan, agree that terminology can be a
difficult barrier. When developing their zero waste plan, they had to
convince local leaders that they weren't talking about foisting a 100%
recycling mandate on a rural, economically depressed county. Instead,
they described zero waste as a way of looking at each product in the
waste stream and examining what they could do locally to either find a
home for that material or prevent it from being discarded in the first
place. Far beyond setting up recycling programs, Del Norte's
definition of zero waste includes building community partnerships and
new job-creating enterprises and advocating for changes in public
policy and corporate behavior to significantly decrease the amount of
material the county is asked to dispose of each year.

Leadership in the zero waste movement over the next several years may
come from some unlikely places. For example, Gary Liss of Gary Liss
& Associates, one of the original architects of the zero waste
message, isn't surprised that Del Norte County was the first in the
country to adopt a zero waste plan. He suspects that more rural areas
will follow Del Norte's example and become the leaders in zero waste
among local governments. "The consumer-oriented campaigns were pursued
initially by GRRN because that was the way to quickly get the message
across," says Liss. "But what we are seeing now is that local
governments have a strong interest in zero waste too."

Kevin Hedrick, director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management
Authority, found that the zero waste message resonated with local
officials who perceive garbage as an unfunded mandate -- products and
packaging come into their community from manufacturers, regardless of
their recyclability, and local governments are obligated to manage the
leftovers. "We found broad support across a spectrum of [political]
beliefs," says Hedrick. "Our local leaders are forward looking, but
they also understand that [zero waste] doesn't have to happen right
away. We are taking it one year at a time."

Liss believes that rural areas that are interested in attracting grant
funding from state and federal agencies for economic development will
see zero waste as an innovative approach that can solve many problems
-- environmental, economic, and social -- at once. Del Norte, for
example, received funding for its zero waste plan from a program
within the U.S. Forest Service aimed at boosting local economies hurt
by logging restrictions. By expanding its local economy with reuse and
recycling- based businesses, Del Norte will also reduce the amount is
must spend to manage and ship its waste outside the county when its
landfill closes in 2003.

Many communities are already implementing scattered pieces of the zero
waste agenda, but without any comprehensive plan. In the coming years,
local governments will more consciously use the tools available to
them in a well-considered, more thorough manner. "Local governments
are the ones writing the rules for solid waste management," says Liss.
"But now they are just copying the last contract instead of figuring
out what they really want to accomplish. We need contracts and
policies that tax bads, not goods."

As the zero waste message catches on in more communities, expect to
see communities restructure contracts and permits to reward businesses
that adopt zero waste approaches, while financially punishing those
who do not. Franchise fees, service contracts, permit conditions, and
deposit systems will be used to implement zero waste. Not only will
local governments adopt unit-based pricing for residential and
business customers, but they will also restructure solid waste
management contracts and franchise fees to ensure that recycling is
more profitable than landfilling. Deposits will be required for
permits for building construction, special events, and other
activities, and these deposits will be refunded only when waste
prevention and recycling goals are met.

Neil Seldman, a board member of GRRN and president of the Institute
for Local Self-Reliance
, believes that the growing field of
deconstruction is where these types of changes will occur most
quickly. He expects to see mandatory deconstruction rules attached to
demolition permits. Seldman also predicts that within the next few
years, several communities and states will adopt landfill bans on
several items. Following trends in the European community, Seldman
also expect bans on PVC in several products including medical
supplies. Activists will continue to push for policies that make
manufacturers more responsible for their products, including deposit
and take-back programs and minimum content standards.

The evolution of recycling goals into zero waste goals will continue
to take place in the corporate community, if business people take the
time to communicate with their vendors and suppliers, says Jim Bosch.
"When waste is created, it is often from a lack of understanding of
what is really needed," says Bosch. For example, Target used to
receive individual pieces of clothing from its vendors bagged in
plastic or packaged with tape, clips, pins, chipboard, or tissue paper
that had to be removed before employees could fold or hang the product
for display in the store. Removing these materials and correctly
folding and hanging the clothes created huge piles of waste in
Target's storerooms and required employees to rack up unproductive
hours on the clock.

With the "waste is inefficiency" motto in mind, Target's buyers and
its Asian vendors worked out a set of specifications for product
delivery. Now most of the clothing arrives "guest ready." Employees
can quickly move products from the back room directly to the store
floor because they are shipped the way Target displays them -- without
the extraneous waste.

Advocates of zero waste find themselves in much the same place as the
pioneers of curbside recycling programs found themselves more than
twenty years ago. "We are at the stage where we are demonstrating that
zero waste is a reality that is actually happening today. We are at
the very beginning of a ten- to twenty-year process of building zero
waste into a real, adopted strategy nationwide," says Liss. Which
words best describe what they are trying to accomplish, which
approaches work best, and who is ultimately responsible are all open
questions. Advocates may not agree on exactly how zero waste will come
about, but they do agree on one thing. "Zero waste is absolutely an
environmental and economic necessity," says Seldman. "Now, when we get
there, that's a question of debate."

=====================================================================

SIDEBAR: On the Zero Waste Horizon

Advocates will refine their definitions of zero waste so the concept
and its implementation are more easily understood by different sectors
(e.g. local governments, consumers, businesses).

Rural and small communities will lead the adoption of zero waste
strategies among government agencies.

Local governments will reevaluate how existing tools -- permits,
franchise fees, contracts, etc. -- can be used to encourage zero
waste.

Activists will continue to press manufacturers to take more
responsibility for their products and packaging, especially those
without widespread, economically viable recycling options.

Corporations will put more pressure on vendors and suppliers to
eliminate waste in their products and transport packaging.

=====================================================================

SIDEBAR: Policies Needed to Support Zero Waste

The GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) has identified eleven policies
and actions that it believes are required to achieve zero waste. You
can expect to find these policies on the agendas of zero waste
advocates nationwide over the next several years:

Manufacturer Responsibility. Manufacturers and producers must share
responsibility for recovering their products and ensuring that they
are recycled and not wasted. This is also called "extended producer
responsibility
."

Minimum-Content Standards. Manufacturers need to help "close the loop"
by using the materials collected in local recycling programs to
manufacture new products.

Consumer Deposit Programs. Deposit programs on materials such as
beverage containers, tires and batteries are effective strategies to
promote reuse and recycling.

Unit-Pricing for Trash. Residents and businesses need to be given the
incentive to reduce waste and recycle through variable garbage rates.
If you produce more trash, you should pay more.

Full-Cost Accounting and Life-Cycle Analysis. The benefits of waste
prevention and recycling should include a full accounting of the costs
of resource depletion, remediation, and environmental degradation
caused by the continued reliance on virgin materials and wasting.

End Subsidies for the Extraction of Virgin Resources. Subsidies for
the resource extraction industries should be eliminated.

End Cheap Waste Disposal. Landfills and incinerators must be subject
to strong environmental standards and must account for the true long-
term cost of waste disposal.

Invest in Jobs Through Reuse and Recycling. Waste prevention and
recycling provides tremendous opportunity to create jobs and initiate
new business ventures.

Tax Shifting. Instead of giving incentives for wasting, tax credits
and economic incentives should promote waste reduction and the use of
recovered materials.

Campaign Finance Reform. Much of the resistance to changing resource
policies comes from industries that profit from wasting.

Take Consumer Action against Wasteful Corporations. The public must
put pressure directly on corporations that profit from waste.

Source: GRRN web site: www.grrn.org

=====================================================================

Kivi Leroux is an environmental writer and editor based in Washington
D.C. She can be reached at kivi@ecoscribe.com.

Copyright 2001, Kivi Leroux

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #16, Dec. 14, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

WHERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ZERO WASTE

By Peter Montague

Zero waste is an idea developed during the past decade by local
government officials working with recycling activists. The slogan is,
"Zero waste or darn near." The basic idea is to stop seeing municipal
trash as a "waste" and start seeing it as a resource that can provide
materials for the manufacturing sector, and can create jobs in the
bargain. Because "zero waste" aims to prevent many of the problems
created by "waste management" approaches such as landfills and
incinerators, we view "zero waste" as an important example of a
precautionary approach to municipal governance.

Here is a selected list of resources on Zero Waste:

1. The California Integrated Waste Management Board

2. Eco-Cycle, Boulder, Col.

3. Gary Liss & Associates

4. The Grass Roots Recycling Network

5. How to Compost Your Waste

6. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance

7. Paul Palmer's book, Getting to Zero Waste (2005)

8. The Product Policy Institute, Athens, Georgia

9. Richard Anthony Associates

10. Urban Ore, Berkeley, Calif.

11. The Zero Waste Alliance in Portland, Oregon

12. The Zero Waste International Alliance

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From: E Magazine, Apr. 1, 2001
[Printer-friendly version]

ZERO WASTE

No Longer Content to Just Recycle Waste, Environmentalists Want Us to
Reduce it to Nothing


By Jim Motavalli

On October 18, the nation's most colorful governor, Jesse Ventura of
Minnesota, took the podium at the Riverfront Radisson in St. Paul and
announced a radical new program to reduce the state's waste stream.
For the next five years, he said, Sony Electronics had agreed to fund
a program that will take back for recycling any and all outdated Sony
products currently in the hands of state consumers.

Though Minnesota has not, like Massachusetts, banned TV and computer
cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from its landfills, Tony Hainault of the
state Office of Environmental Assistance says there has long been
sentiment there to get old electronics out of the waste stream. "CRTs
are the largest source of lead in the municipal waste stream," he
says, "and printed circuit boards are the second." In a one-year
program ending last year, Minnesota collected and recycled nearly 600
tons of used electronics.

Sony's program, which will spread to five other states in 2001, is the
first of its kind in the United States. But such examples of Extended
Producer Responsibility (EPR) are business-as-usual throughout Europe,
where the concept of legislatively mandating manufacturers to take
responsibility for the waste they create has taken firm root. For a
determined group of environmentalists, Sony's voluntary initiative was
the first success of many in what they see as a developing national
movement toward zero waste. The phrase is not to be taken literally,
but as a goal that emphasizes source reduction ahead of managing
waste.

Recycling is America's favorite environmental activity--100 million of
us do it every day--but while there have been dramatic successes in
many areas, overall recycling rates have declined slightly. An
impressive 53 percent of plastic soda bottles were recycled in 1994,
but only 35.6 percent in 1998. So why are these environmentalists so
confident? Because, they believe, reducing the waste stream to a mere
trickle is in everybody's interests, even benefiting the very
corporations that have been screaming the loudest about the burden of
recycling. Sony's president and chief operating officer, Fujio
Nishida, showed considerable foresight when he declared, "Taking back
and recycling products helps Sony design future devices that cost less
to manufacture and help save our precious natural resources. It's a
win-win situation."

"Where should we aim after 2000?" asks Gary Liss, a California-based
zero waste consultant. "Do we stop at 35 percent or 50 percent
recycling and build landfills and incinerators to handle the rest of
our waste? Or do we continue to build on the tremendous success of the
past decade and work to eliminate waste at the source?"

A Powerful Push

As a concept, zero waste has come a long way in a very short time.
Eric Lombardi, executive director of Boulder, Colorado's very
successful Eco-Cycle recycling program, says that the current U.S.
movement grew out of heated board discussions in the early 1990s at
the mainstream National Recycling Coalition (which has corporate
membership). "Half the group saw the value of the European EPR model
and half did not," Lombardi said. "We'd say that corporations should
use 25 percent recycled content in their products, and they'd reply
that it wasn't economically feasible. Ultimately, we decided that
coalitions are not a great place for getting anything done."

That experience led directly to the formation in 1996 of the
GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) as the U.S. advocate for zero
waste. "We needed a group that wouldn't get bogged down, that was free
to push the envelope," Lombardi says. And pushing the envelope is
exactly what GRRN does. The group's national coordinator, Bill
Sheehan, has led the network in a protracted and effective campaign
directed at Coca-Cola, which made--and failed to keep--a 1990 promise
to use 25 percent post-consumer waste in its plastic beverage bottles.
While Coke has not capitulated, it has agreed to use 10 percent
recycled content in a quarter of its bottles, making 2.5 percent total
content.

Further pressure on both Coke and Pepsi is coming from a group of
socially responsible investors, including Walden Asset Management and
the As You Sow Foundation. The shareholders filed a resolution in late
November asking the companies to not only use 25 percent recycled
content in their bottles, but also to put their weight behind
recycling programs to achieve an 80 percent recycling rate for their
beverage containers (two out of three of which are now landfilled).

"Zero waste is about challenging the ruling paradigm that says we can
manage waste safely in landfills and incinerators," Sheehan says. "All
the elements of a zero waste system are there, and it's a question of
bringing them together. We believe that some public officials will get
the vision and start piecing it together."

One city that seems to be "getting it" is Seattle, which in 1998
adopted zero waste as a guiding principle in its solid waste plan.
"This principle entails managing resources instead of waste," the city
said in a resolution, "conserving natural resources through waste
prevention and recycling; turning discarded resources into jobs and
new products instead of trash; promoting products and materials that
are durable; and discouraging products and materials that can only
become trash after their use." Two California counties have also
adopted zero waste goals, as has Carrboro, North Carolina.

There is growing conviction in solid waste circles that conventional
recycling has gone about as far as it's likely to go without
fundamental, society-wide changes. "Communities like Seattle and
Minneapolis have expended a lot of resources and hit a ceiling at
around the 60 percent recycling rate," says Sheehan. "Going beyond
that is very difficult, and the primary barriers are the lack of
manufacturer responsibility and the non-level playing field that
subsidizes wasting."

In a report called "Welfare for Waste," GRRN has documented 15 tax and
spending subsidies that directly benefit three industries--forestry,
petroleum and mining--whose products directly compete with recycled
material. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that public
subsidies for virgin materials puts recycling at a competitive
disadvantage," says Sheehan.

Europe Leads

In 1996, the President's Council on Sustainable Development
recommended that U.S. businesses adhere to what it called "extended
product responsibility." Priorities are considerably different in
Europe, where extended producer responsibility is a given and in many
cases, the law. The difference between the two concepts is large
enough to drive many truckloads of waste through. The Clinton
administration considers waste a shared responsibility between
government, industry and consumers. In Europe, the onus is on the
companies that produce it.

In some ways, voluntary efforts like Sony's in Minnesota are an effort
to head off mandatory government programs like those in Europe. "The
European programs won't necessarily be cost effective," says Mark
Small, Sony's vice president of environment, health and safety. "We're
trying to get a program up and running that will make both
environmental and business sense." An internal Sony document, leaked
to reporters last December, detailed its efforts to monitor
environmentalists and "cripple" efforts to pass electronic recycling
laws.

When Germany adopted its Packaging Ordinance of 1991, it was stepping
off into uncharted territory. The law, says Bette Fishbein, senior
fellow of the New York-based group INFORM Inc., shifted "the costs of
collecting, sorting and recycling used packaging from municipal
government to private industry," a revolutionary policy that "sent
shock waves around the world that reverberate to this day."

Packaging waste accounted for about a third (by weight) and a half (by
volume) of all the landfilled waste in Germany, and that's why it was
the first category to be addressed, although other planned initiatives
are targeting electronics and vehicles. Germany's landfill space
crisis--a problem it shares with many other European countries--made
such a radical solution not only necessary but politically palatable
as well.

The packaging law required deposits on packaging and take-back by
retailers (a system similar to the bottle bills in 10 U.S. states),
but it gave manufacturers an important "out" in allowing them to
design their own recycling program. Industry did, devising the Duales
System Deutschland (DSD), which adds a second bin for packaging waste
to the German household. Packaging bearing the now-famous "Green Dot"
logo is collected, sorted and recycled, with costs borne by the
producers.

In a 1998 report written for Pollution Prevention Review, Fishbein
reports that during its first four years, the Green Dot program cut
packaging consumption in Germany by a million tons. To avoid higher
costs down the road, manufacturers lightened their packages,
eliminated unnecessary packaging (like boxes within boxes), and
marketed their products in more concentrated forms. While it's
impossible to make a direct comparison, during the same period U.S.
packaging increased by 13 percent.

Despite its successes, the Green Dot program has been criticized by
some environmentalists because it's being run by the corporate sector,
and by industry groups that claim it's too expensive for the results
achieved and unnecessary as well. The European Organization for
Packaging and the Environment, a business trade group, charged that
"the idea of a rising mountain of packaging waste" is, in fact, "a
myth." In the early years of the program, there's no doubt that it
recovered too much waste for Germany's recycling infrastructure;
critics claimed that Green Dot was simply exporting the country's
problems. These complaints have since been resolved with a larger
domestic recycling capacity.

Green Dot spread to the 15 member states of the European Union in 1994
with the adoption of a less-stringent Packaging Directive, and various
programs are starting up. In England, for instance, 4,500 businesses
that each handle more than 50 tons of packaging per year have
registered with environmental agencies. Variations of the Green Dot
are in place all over the world, including programs in Poland,
Hungary, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. In Finland, for instance, an EPR law
has been in effect since 1997, and for 2001 it aims to reuse or
recycle 82 percent of packaging waste, and prevent another six percent
from being created in the first place. In Argentina, a proposed law
would label any packaging that isn't recyclable or reusable as
"hazardous waste."

The world leader in mandating zero waste may well be New Zealand,
which launched a national pilot project in 1999 to put major waste
reduction into place on the level of the country's local councils.
Zero Waste New Zealand Trust received an overwhelming response.
Designed for the participation of 10 councils, by mid-2000 the project
had 25, each funded with a $25,000 (NZ) grant. According to Warren
Snow, a Trust trustee, significant waste reduction is already being
recorded across the country. One district, Opotiki, says it has cut
landfilling from 10,000 tons to 3,500 per year, and expects to recover
80 percent of municipal waste by November. In the second half of 2000,
six stores in Auckland achieved zero waste status and no longer have
dumpsters on their premises. In one example, shoe buyers at The
Warehouse are asking suppliers to stop stuffing shoes with paper, and
that alone has reduced the store's waste stream by 15 percent. "New
Zealand has a history of doing things before the rest of the world,"
says Snow. "It was the first country in the world to give women the
vote, the first country to have a national nuclear-free policy and is
on the way to being a waste-free country."

Electronic and vehicle recycling is moving ahead elsewhere as well. In
Holland, a law that went into effect in 1999 requires computers,
appliances and other equipment to be taken back by their
manufacturers. Italy has required refrigerator takeback since 1997,
and is working on regulations for other appliances. Norway's program,
adopted in 1999, has very ambitious goals. Japan's law, covering many
electronic products, goes into effect this year.

The European Union has also drafted legislation for end-of-life
vehicles (ELVs), and sets an 80 percent recycling rate for 2005. As
Fishbein describes it, car owners would be required to obtain a
"certificate of deregistration" confirming that their vehicle had been
legally recycled.

A Long Way to Go

Anyone reading through that long list of international accomplishment
will be struck by how far behind the United States remains. But the
situation may soon change, as considerable ingenuity is being applied
to the colossal task of reducing America's waste stream--by far the
largest per capita in the world. The U.S., with just five percent of
the world's population, uses 25 percent of its resources. In 1997,
Americans threw out 430 billion pounds of garbage, or 1,600 pounds for
every man, woman and child. The GRRN report "Wasting and Recycling in
the U.S. 2000" indicates that between 1990 and 1997 plastic packaging
grew five times faster by weight than plastic recovered for recycling.
And according to Ecology of Commerce author Paul Hawken, 94 percent of
the materials used in the manufacture of the average U.S. product are
thrown away before the product even reaches the shelves.

It's plain that recycling alone can't hope to significantly shrink
that mountain of trash. Brenda Platt of the Washington-based Institute
for Local Self-Reliance says the key is to stop thinking about waste
as a problem and to start thinking about it as an opportunity--in
effect, from waste to wealth. "We've been documenting record-setting
waste reduction programs on the local level," she says. "Some
communities, like Seattle and San Jose, have achieved 65 percent
reductions."

One of the keys is composting. Peter Anderson, chairman of the
National Recycling Coalition's policy group, says that 15 percent of
the U.S. waste stream is food and another 35 percent is unrecoverable
paper, like fast food wrappers soaked in fryer oil. "All of that can
be composted, and if we separated it from dry waste and got it out of
landfills, we'd be half way to zero waste."

Platt agrees. "You have to get the organics out of the waste stream.
And that doesn't mean just leaves in the fall, but yard clippings year
'round. And if you target only newspapers, bottles and cans, you're
addressing 15 percent of the waste stream. You have to go beyond that
to include things like oil filters and textiles." Many communities
have found themselves with dramatic savings by the simple expedient of
unit-pricing their garbage, a procedure commonly known as "pay as you
throw." The end result of such whole cycle thinking, she says, may not
be zero waste, but it will be pretty darn close.

Source reduction can be extremely cost-effective. Platt says that
moving beyond 50 to 60 percent recycling rates can be expensive, but
communities can actually save money by reducing waste at the source.
"They actually begin to reduce trash so much they can cut some garbage
pickup and shift personnel to recycling--they no longer need two
parallel staffs." Platt is the co-author of an Institute report that
concludes that sorting and processing recyclables sustains 10 times
more jobs than landfilling or incinerating.

Some of the new ideas add whole new dimensions to the phrase "reduce,
reuse and recycle." Gary Liss, for one, is an advocate of resource
recovery parks, several of which have sprung up in California. The
idea, he says, is to create one central location for recycling,
composting and reuse facilities, together with manufacturing and
retailing. The goal is to allow the public to instantly recover value
from their waste, while also shopping for goods made from that waste.
As in industrial parks, the businesses can share management, space,
operating equipment, maintenance and even advertising expenses.

In Berkeley, California, a former steel pipe manufacturer has been
transformed into a 2.2-acre reuse demonstration project called Urban
Ore, featuring departments that retail building materials, hardware,
arts and media equipment, as well as a general store. Urban Ore hopes
to add satellite businesses that will rebuild and upgrade old
computers, make countertops out of recycled glass, and fashion unique
items from scrap steel.

"We are using our materials very inefficiently today," says Liss. "We
could produce 100 times the products with the same resources if we
were looking at the total system on a holistic basis. And it doesn't
have to be altruistic." Liss cites zero waste initiatives that are
already underway at such companies as Xerox (which calls its program
"Xero Waste"), Fetzer Vineyards and Hewlett-Packard. Here are some
industry standouts:

Oregon-based computer printer maker Epson recycles 90 percent of its
materials, and disposes of the rest at a waste-to-energy facility
(which produces only 10 percent residue for landfilling);

California's Fetzer Vineyards has reduced its garbage outflow by 93
percent in the last seven years, and is aiming for zero waste by 2009.
The vineyard composts 12 cubic yards of corks and 10,000 tons of grape
seeds every year;

Mad River Brewery, in Blue Lake, California, diverts 98 percent of its
waste from landfills, which leaves only enough garbage to fill two 90-
gallon cans per week. In 1998, the beer company's waste reduction
efforts saved it more than $35,000. The company takes back six-pack
containers and donates plastic grain packaging for remanufacture into
reusable shopping bags;

Pillsbury's baking operations in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, divert 96
percent of their waste, and the company is aiming for 100 percent. The
company recycled or reused enough paper in 1999 to save 200,000 trees,
82 million gallons of water and 48 million kilowatts of electricity.
Pillsbury uses rented or recycled shipping pallets, and recently
increased the recycled content of its folding cartons to 50 percent;

Xerox, based in Rochester, New York, has adopted the Waste-Free
Factory as its ideal. It's not there yet, but in 1998 the company's
worldwide recycling rate reached 88 percent, saving the company $45
million.

There are dozens more examples. Lowell Paul Dairy of Greeley,
Colorado, sells milk in returnable and refillable bottles. Collins &
Aikman, carpet makers of Dalton, Georgia, actually achieved zero
landfill waste in 1998 while the company was increasing production by
300 percent (without increasing energy use). The Amdahl Corporation, a
computer software business in Santa Clara, California, has achieved 90
percent waste diversion since 1990.

Legislatures can make waste diversion easier by writing it into law.
The disposal ban is gathering force with Massachusetts' decision to
stop allowing cathode ray tubes into its landfills. (New Jersey is
also considering such a ban.) By 2010, Massachusetts wants to reduce
municipal solid waste by 70 percent statewide. Some 23 states ban some
or all yard waste from its dumps, 32 states refuse to accept tires,
and 16 states ban large appliances. California's San Diego County bans
materials it deems recyclable. According to Zero Waste America (ZWA),
"Recycling goals do not stop waste disposal. Recyclables can end up in
landfills and incinerators if there is no disposal ban in place."

Lynn Landes, ZWA's Pennsylvania-based founder and director, is a
vigorous proponent of disposal bans, and she says there would be more
of them in effect if the federal government were doing its job. Landes
takes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to task for failing to
enforce the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976, which required all
states to develop individual plans to maximize waste reduction and
recycling. Although there was a 1980 deadline, many states never
developed plans. The law itself hasn't been enforced since 1987, when
the Reagan administration defunded it. Landes notes that even without
funding, the law is still in effect and the EPA could be sued in
federal court for ignoring it.

Bottle bills are hardly a new idea, but they remain a highly effective
legislative approach to reducing landfill clutter. Oregon was the
first state to put a cash deposit on cans and bottles, in 1970, and
California was the most recent, in 1986. Since then, though some
cities have inaugurated bottle redemption on their own (most notably,
Columbia, Missouri), the number of bottle bill states has been frozen
at 10, despite the fact that the laws are extremely effective.
According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), in deposit
states an average of 80 percent of beverage bottles and cans are
recycled; in non-deposit states, that figure is only 40 percent.
"Beverage containers are five percent of the waste stream, and with
bottle bills we can get them to near-zero waste," says Pat Franklin,
CRI executive director. "If we add deposits in 19 other areas, one for
each five percent, the zero waste goal would be in sight."

As Sheehan points out, 55 percent of all recycled containers come from
the 10 states with bottle bills. Curbside collection, he said, is no
guarantee that bottles or cans will actually be recycled, since a high
percentage of such collections are contaminated. "Bottle bills give
people a financial incentive to recycle, and the containers collected
at redemption centers are clean, giving them a much higher value in
the marketplace," Sheehan says.

Why haven't more states adopted bottle bills? Chalk that up to the
incredible lobbying power of the beverage industry, which uses an
organization it funds heavily, the anti-litter group Keep America
Beautiful, to wave the anti-bottle-bill flag. The industry also
creates grassroots groups to fight its battles on the ground. In
Washington, D.C., for instance, a beverage industry front group called
the Clean Capital City Committee spent a record $2.3 million in 1987
to convince voters that a proposed bottle bill would amount to a
hidden tax, would mean higher prices for consumers, lost sales and
lost jobs. The bill, favored by 70 percent of voters at the outset of
industry's campaign, was ultimately defeated by a 10 percent margin.

Since corporate America increasingly treasures a green image, it no
longer openly fights environmental initiatives, though its heft behind
the scenes is considerable. It has so far successfully dodged
responsibility for packaging waste; fought off bottle bills; and
protected its right to pollute in a myriad of ways. At the same time,
these corporations have proven highly vulnerable to embarrassing media
campaigns that expose the wolf behind the sheep's clothing. And a
handful of activists are attacking the pressure points, making the
case for zero waste in America.

Copyright E Magazine 2001

Return to Table of Contents

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
From: International Herald Tribune, Dec. 13, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

EU COMPROMISE ON CHEMICAL BILL

By Thomas Fuller

PARIS -- European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

Copyright 2005 the International Herald Tribune

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
provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle --
please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Editors:
Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org

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To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution
Reporter
send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

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:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #16 "Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World" Wednesday, December 14, 2005.........Printer-friendly version www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Table of Contents...

A Precautionary Approach to Municipal Trash: Zero Waste
At its core, the foresight/precautionary principle says, "Take
action to prevent harm." If you apply foresight to the problem of
municipal trash, you get "zero waste" -- preventing many of the
problems of municipal trash by viewing it as a resource, not something
to be wasted.
Clearing the Way for Zero Waste
Here's some background on zero waste, as it looked in 2001. Be sure
to note the "policies needed to support zero waste" in this article.
Where to Learn More About Zero Waste
Here is a short list of resources you and your local officials can
tap to learn more about the "zero waste" approach to municipal
discards.
More Background On the Precautionary Approach to Trash
Here's another good overview of the "zero waste" approach to
municipal trash, written in 2001 by Jim Motavalli, the prolific editor
of E-Magazine.
Europe Compromises Again On Its REACH Chemicals Policy
This week, Europe's precautionary chemicals policy, called REACH,
took another important step toward becoming law, but it got watered
down further along the way, demonstrating the enormous unaccountable
power of the chemical industry worldwide. Can elected national
governments control corporations? That's what's at stake here.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
From: Common Ground, Dec. 12, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

RECIPES FOR REFUSE

Paul Palmer Wants to Eliminate Garbage as We Know It

By Jordan E. Rosenfeld

If Earth had its own superhero to protect it from the waste-
accumulating tendencies of humans, Paul Palmer, a 'zero waste'
activist and PhD chemist from Yale, could be a contender. Graced with
visions of solutions to our culture's excesses, Palmer has spent more
than 30 years proving that 'un-recyclable' chemicals can be recycled,
and in his new book, Getting to Zero Waste [ISBN 0976057107], he
busts the myth that garbage is as inevitable as death and taxes.

Like any superhero worth his cape, Palmer is a self-professed
"maverick" who claims not to listen to proscribed wisdom or to have
much respect for authority, which makes it hard to imagine how he held
board-level positions on the Sonoma County Local Waste Management Task
Force and the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Management Commission.
His life's work is about nothing less than rescuing humanity from its
own refuse. And he's tried every avenue to get people to listen.

Though Palmer has the blueprints to obliterate garbage as we know it,
he's up against the powerful propaganda generator of the existing U.S.
garbage industry, which produces more than $44 billion in annual
revenue -- 76% of that in the private, mostly-corporate sector
according to a 2002 study by the Environmental Research and Education
Foundation.

"People will tell you that garbage has always been and always will
be," said Palmer by phone from his Sebastopol home. "How do they know
that? There's no scientific analysis that says this. The reason for
their beliefs is that the garbage industry is extremely powerful. And
it's so secretive that people don't realize there is such thing as a
garbage industry. It's very subtle and clever; they run under the
radar."

Because garbage is split into private and public sectors, corporate
garbage companies like Waste Management Inc. (which runs Novato's
Redwood Landfill), can hide behind the public service facade of the
nonprofit, government-run services.

"The public treats garbage like, 'Hey, there's my friendly garbage man
taking away my trash'," Palmer says. "We're brainwashed."

Palmer refuses to use the term "landfill," which he says was crafted
from the "PR ether of corporations."

"Landfill makes it sound like land that is just waiting to be filled
up with garbage. It's a dump! It's a pit dug in the ground where we
throw stuff we don't use."

Goodbye To Garbage Trucks

Palmer's recipe for a zero-waste future might seem radical to those
who take garbage for granted. In his vision, there are no friendly
garbage men riding the green truck every week because there are no
pits in the ground in which to bury trash. People visit "filling
stations" that sport spigots and bins, and they carry their own sturdy
containers to be filled with all the products used on a daily basis in
homes and businesses -- from food to cleaning supplies. Manufacturers
design products to be easy to repair and reuse, and are held
financially responsible for any waste produced. And most importantly,
there is little money to be made from dumps, garbage service or
recycling centers because consumers have broken free from the need to
dispose, having cleaved to reuse instead.

Palmer admits it's a vision not likely to be realized in his lifetime,
but that doesn't stop him from preaching the zero-waste gospel and
living it, too. He creates as little waste as possible through
burning, composting and reusing.

"People are in love with the idea of their garbage," he said. "When
they decide to do spring cleaning, there is no infrastructure to help
them -- except to bring out a dumpster or possibly take a few things
to Goodwill.

"Here we have a society that lovingly crafts resources into all kinds
of specialized usage, devices, applications and then, when one little
thing goes wrong, we put it in a dump. Think of all the energy lost
there."

As defined by the EPA, garbage is "something that has no owner or is
unwanted by someone who owns it," Palmer says. "So If I throw away a
perfectly good drum of chemical solvent, it becomes waste."

Palmer's former recycling business, Zero Waste Systems, founded in
1973 in Oakland, was one of the first in the state to find creative
reuse solutions to chemicals that were considered un-recyclable --
from Freon coolant found in old refrigerators to abandoned industrial
solvents.

"We reused things directly by the application of intelligence and
designed ways to reclaim a lot of the chemicals used in the Bay Area.
For example, I looked up the ingredients to something the electronics
industry calls 'resist developer' and discovered these were the same
two ingredients in lacquer thinner. So I canned it and sold it as
lacquer thinner."

He'd like to see the EPA create a database that tells how chemicals
can be used so that a plant or company with an excess of a chemical
can sell it to other users, rather than dump it. The result of
dumping, he says, leads to "unknown chemicals undergoing unknown
reactions at unknown times deep in huge pits dug in the ground."

Palmer says all this and more in Getting to Zero Waste, which he
hoped would act as a kind of "sparkplug" to generate people to
organize local zero-waste movements.

No Time Left to Waste

For those who feel just a little bit better about their trash habits
because they recycle, Palmer is sorry to say, "What we know as
recycling is the lowest possible form of reuse. When you break a
bottle, you lose 98 percent of its value and you've wasted all the
labor and material resources that went into making it.

"Recycling has been a wonderful phase we've gone through; it's been
responsible for an advance in awareness, but now it's time to move on
and work on the design principles of products."

The State of California's Integrated Waste Management Board, which
oversees the regulation of garbage, has joined the cause, adopting a
long-term zero-waste goal, which will eventually effect new garbage
regulations.

Recent activist movements can be cause for inspiration, too, Palmer
suggests. If people can mobilize by the thousands to protest the war
in Iraq, they can also push for zero-waste agendas.

"Representative Lynn Woolsey told me that politicians need to see this
is an issue that voters care about. I've been working on a petition to
get 1,000 signatures. Maybe she can slip it into a budget bill," he
chuckles.

Meanwhile, reuse remains the number one method to prevent waste, and
it's a strategy that can be adopted at any time by any one. Diverting
waste from dumps is important, especially since composting organic
matter in dumps adds to the production of unhealthy and global-warming
methane gasses.

"There are hundreds of small success stories," Palmer says, citing a
friend of his in Sebastopol who found a creative solution to his yard
waste. "Michael had all these trimmings from his apple trees that he
decided were going for naught. He shredded up this apple wood for use
in grills and sells it. He's having success with it as a barbecue
enhancer.

"Zero waste is an uphill struggle," Palmer admits, "but we've got to
start taking responsibility for our waste now."

Jordan E. Rosenfeld is a Petaluma-based writer and editor. Her bi-
monthly show, "Word by Word: Conversations with Writers," can be heard
on KRCB (91 FM) in Rohnert Park. She can be reached via email:
writelife@earthlink.net

COMMON GROUND -- 305 San Anselmo Ave. Suite 313 San Anselmo, CA 94960
Phone: 415.459.4900 Fax: 415.459.4974

Copyright 2005 COMMON GROUND

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From: Resource Recycling, Mar. 15, 2001
[Printer-friendly version]

CLEARING THE WAY FOR ZERO WASTE

By Kivi Leroux

A business leader, a consultant, a local government official, and an
activist share their perspectives on what's next for the zero waste
movement.

Six years ago, a group of California recycling activists decided that
the old "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra just wasn't cutting it
anymore. Something bold and new was needed to clearly link recycling
with larger environmental and economic issues--something that would
reenergize both recycling professionals and the public. After much
debate and collaboration with other recycling activists across the
country, "Zero Waste" was born.

When the zero waste movement began to take off a few years ago,
fronted largely by the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), it was
perceived by many as a group of activists interested in rousing the
public into consumer action against corporate America's wastefulness.
While many in the recycling community still associate zero waste with
GRRN's demands that Coca-Cola increase its use of recycled content in
PET bottles, zero waste as a concept and as a movement is spreading
beyond the picket lines. The term zero waste and what it stands for
are now just as likely to be discussed in city halls and corporate
boardrooms. The perspectives of four advocates of zero waste-a
business leader, a consultant, a local government official, and an
activist-forecast the future of the zero waste movement.

Defining just what the phrase zero waste means and making the term
easily understood in the public and private sectors alike is probably
the movement's biggest challenge in the next few years, says Jim
Bosch, manager of environmental services for Target Corporation and
former chair of the National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled
Business Alliance. Just as recyclers debated precisely what types of
recovery constituted recycling and what qualified as recycled content,
zero waste advocates themselves do not always agree on the best ways
to describe zero waste.

For Bosch, waste is a measure of inefficiency. Therefore, zero waste
is about eliminating inefficiency, a concept that corporate America is
much more likely to embrace than the idea of giving up their garbage
dumpsters for good. Bush has incorporated this definition into
Target's environmental goals, and he believes that the zero waste
movement will be more successful in gaining corporate support if it
characterizes zero waste in these terms.

The staff of the Del Norte [County, Calif.] Solid Waste Management
Authority
, the first municipality in the United States to adopt a
comprehensive zero waste plan, agree that terminology can be a
difficult barrier. When developing their zero waste plan, they had to
convince local leaders that they weren't talking about foisting a 100%
recycling mandate on a rural, economically depressed county. Instead,
they described zero waste as a way of looking at each product in the
waste stream and examining what they could do locally to either find a
home for that material or prevent it from being discarded in the first
place. Far beyond setting up recycling programs, Del Norte's
definition of zero waste includes building community partnerships and
new job-creating enterprises and advocating for changes in public
policy and corporate behavior to significantly decrease the amount of
material the county is asked to dispose of each year.

Leadership in the zero waste movement over the next several years may
come from some unlikely places. For example, Gary Liss of Gary Liss
& Associates, one of the original architects of the zero waste
message, isn't surprised that Del Norte County was the first in the
country to adopt a zero waste plan. He suspects that more rural areas
will follow Del Norte's example and become the leaders in zero waste
among local governments. "The consumer-oriented campaigns were pursued
initially by GRRN because that was the way to quickly get the message
across," says Liss. "But what we are seeing now is that local
governments have a strong interest in zero waste too."

Kevin Hedrick, director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management
Authority, found that the zero waste message resonated with local
officials who perceive garbage as an unfunded mandate -- products and
packaging come into their community from manufacturers, regardless of
their recyclability, and local governments are obligated to manage the
leftovers. "We found broad support across a spectrum of [political]
beliefs," says Hedrick. "Our local leaders are forward looking, but
they also understand that [zero waste] doesn't have to happen right
away. We are taking it one year at a time."

Liss believes that rural areas that are interested in attracting grant
funding from state and federal agencies for economic development will
see zero waste as an innovative approach that can solve many problems
-- environmental, economic, and social -- at once. Del Norte, for
example, received funding for its zero waste plan from a program
within the U.S. Forest Service aimed at boosting local economies hurt
by logging restrictions. By expanding its local economy with reuse and
recycling- based businesses, Del Norte will also reduce the amount is
must spend to manage and ship its waste outside the county when its
landfill closes in 2003.

Many communities are already implementing scattered pieces of the zero
waste agenda, but without any comprehensive plan. In the coming years,
local governments will more consciously use the tools available to
them in a well-considered, more thorough manner. "Local governments
are the ones writing the rules for solid waste management," says Liss.
"But now they are just copying the last contract instead of figuring
out what they really want to accomplish. We need contracts and
policies that tax bads, not goods."

As the zero waste message catches on in more communities, expect to
see communities restructure contracts and permits to reward businesses
that adopt zero waste approaches, while financially punishing those
who do not. Franchise fees, service contracts, permit conditions, and
deposit systems will be used to implement zero waste. Not only will
local governments adopt unit-based pricing for residential and
business customers, but they will also restructure solid waste
management contracts and franchise fees to ensure that recycling is
more profitable than landfilling. Deposits will be required for
permits for building construction, special events, and other
activities, and these deposits will be refunded only when waste
prevention and recycling goals are met.

Neil Seldman, a board member of GRRN and president of the Institute
for Local Self-Reliance
, believes that the growing field of
deconstruction is where these types of changes will occur most
quickly. He expects to see mandatory deconstruction rules attached to
demolition permits. Seldman also predicts that within the next few
years, several communities and states will adopt landfill bans on
several items. Following trends in the European community, Seldman
also expect bans on PVC in several products including medical
supplies. Activists will continue to push for policies that make
manufacturers more responsible for their products, including deposit
and take-back programs and minimum content standards.

The evolution of recycling goals into zero waste goals will continue
to take place in the corporate community, if business people take the
time to communicate with their vendors and suppliers, says Jim Bosch.
"When waste is created, it is often from a lack of understanding of
what is really needed," says Bosch. For example, Target used to
receive individual pieces of clothing from its vendors bagged in
plastic or packaged with tape, clips, pins, chipboard, or tissue paper
that had to be removed before employees could fold or hang the product
for display in the store. Removing these materials and correctly
folding and hanging the clothes created huge piles of waste in
Target's storerooms and required employees to rack up unproductive
hours on the clock.

With the "waste is inefficiency" motto in mind, Target's buyers and
its Asian vendors worked out a set of specifications for product
delivery. Now most of the clothing arrives "guest ready." Employees
can quickly move products from the back room directly to the store
floor because they are shipped the way Target displays them -- without
the extraneous waste.

Advocates of zero waste find themselves in much the same place as the
pioneers of curbside recycling programs found themselves more than
twenty years ago. "We are at the stage where we are demonstrating that
zero waste is a reality that is actually happening today. We are at
the very beginning of a ten- to twenty-year process of building zero
waste into a real, adopted strategy nationwide," says Liss. Which
words best describe what they are trying to accomplish, which
approaches work best, and who is ultimately responsible are all open
questions. Advocates may not agree on exactly how zero waste will come
about, but they do agree on one thing. "Zero waste is absolutely an
environmental and economic necessity," says Seldman. "Now, when we get
there, that's a question of debate."

=====================================================================

SIDEBAR: On the Zero Waste Horizon

Advocates will refine their definitions of zero waste so the concept
and its implementation are more easily understood by different sectors
(e.g. local governments, consumers, businesses).

Rural and small communities will lead the adoption of zero waste
strategies among government agencies.

Local governments will reevaluate how existing tools -- permits,
franchise fees, contracts, etc. -- can be used to encourage zero
waste.

Activists will continue to press manufacturers to take more
responsibility for their products and packaging, especially those
without widespread, economically viable recycling options.

Corporations will put more pressure on vendors and suppliers to
eliminate waste in their products and transport packaging.

=====================================================================

SIDEBAR: Policies Needed to Support Zero Waste

The GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) has identified eleven policies
and actions that it believes are required to achieve zero waste. You
can expect to find these policies on the agendas of zero waste
advocates nationwide over the next several years:

Manufacturer Responsibility. Manufacturers and producers must share
responsibility for recovering their products and ensuring that they
are recycled and not wasted. This is also called "extended producer
responsibility
."

Minimum-Content Standards. Manufacturers need to help "close the loop"
by using the materials collected in local recycling programs to
manufacture new products.

Consumer Deposit Programs. Deposit programs on materials such as
beverage containers, tires and batteries are effective strategies to
promote reuse and recycling.

Unit-Pricing for Trash. Residents and businesses need to be given the
incentive to reduce waste and recycle through variable garbage rates.
If you produce more trash, you should pay more.

Full-Cost Accounting and Life-Cycle Analysis. The benefits of waste
prevention and recycling should include a full accounting of the costs
of resource depletion, remediation, and environmental degradation
caused by the continued reliance on virgin materials and wasting.

End Subsidies for the Extraction of Virgin Resources. Subsidies for
the resource extraction industries should be eliminated.

End Cheap Waste Disposal. Landfills and incinerators must be subject
to strong environmental standards and must account for the true long-
term cost of waste disposal.

Invest in Jobs Through Reuse and Recycling. Waste prevention and
recycling provides tremendous opportunity to create jobs and initiate
new business ventures.

Tax Shifting. Instead of giving incentives for wasting, tax credits
and economic incentives should promote waste reduction and the use of
recovered materials.

Campaign Finance Reform. Much of the resistance to changing resource
policies comes from industries that profit from wasting.

Take Consumer Action against Wasteful Corporations. The public must
put pressure directly on corporations that profit from waste.

Source: GRRN web site: www.grrn.org

=====================================================================

Kivi Leroux is an environmental writer and editor based in Washington
D.C. She can be reached at kivi@ecoscribe.com.

Copyright 2001, Kivi Leroux

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #16, Dec. 14, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

WHERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ZERO WASTE

By Peter Montague

Zero waste is an idea developed during the past decade by local
government officials working with recycling activists. The slogan is,
"Zero waste or darn near." The basic idea is to stop seeing municipal
trash as a "waste" and start seeing it as a resource that can provide
materials for the manufacturing sector, and can create jobs in the
bargain. Because "zero waste" aims to prevent many of the problems
created by "waste management" approaches such as landfills and
incinerators, we view "zero waste" as an important example of a
precautionary approach to municipal governance.

Here is a selected list of resources on Zero Waste:

1. The California Integrated Waste Management Board

2. Eco-Cycle, Boulder, Col.

3. Gary Liss & Associates

4. The Grass Roots Recycling Network

5. How to Compost Your Waste

6. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance

7. Paul Palmer's book, Getting to Zero Waste (2005)

8. The Product Policy Institute, Athens, Georgia

9. Richard Anthony Associates

10. Urban Ore, Berkeley, Calif.

11. The Zero Waste Alliance in Portland, Oregon

12. The Zero Waste International Alliance

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From: E Magazine, Apr. 1, 2001
[Printer-friendly version]

ZERO WASTE

No Longer Content to Just Recycle Waste, Environmentalists Want Us to
Reduce it to Nothing


By Jim Motavalli

On October 18, the nation's most colorful governor, Jesse Ventura of
Minnesota, took the podium at the Riverfront Radisson in St. Paul and
announced a radical new program to reduce the state's waste stream.
For the next five years, he said, Sony Electronics had agreed to fund
a program that will take back for recycling any and all outdated Sony
products currently in the hands of state consumers.

Though Minnesota has not, like Massachusetts, banned TV and computer
cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from its landfills, Tony Hainault of the
state Office of Environmental Assistance says there has long been
sentiment there to get old electronics out of the waste stream. "CRTs
are the largest source of lead in the municipal waste stream," he
says, "and printed circuit boards are the second." In a one-year
program ending last year, Minnesota collected and recycled nearly 600
tons of used electronics.

Sony's program, which will spread to five other states in 2001, is the
first of its kind in the United States. But such examples of Extended
Producer Responsibility (EPR) are business-as-usual throughout Europe,
where the concept of legislatively mandating manufacturers to take
responsibility for the waste they create has taken firm root. For a
determined group of environmentalists, Sony's voluntary initiative was
the first success of many in what they see as a developing national
movement toward zero waste. The phrase is not to be taken literally,
but as a goal that emphasizes source reduction ahead of managing
waste.

Recycling is America's favorite environmental activity--100 million of
us do it every day--but while there have been dramatic successes in
many areas, overall recycling rates have declined slightly. An
impressive 53 percent of plastic soda bottles were recycled in 1994,
but only 35.6 percent in 1998. So why are these environmentalists so
confident? Because, they believe, reducing the waste stream to a mere
trickle is in everybody's interests, even benefiting the very
corporations that have been screaming the loudest about the burden of
recycling. Sony's president and chief operating officer, Fujio
Nishida, showed considerable foresight when he declared, "Taking back
and recycling products helps Sony design future devices that cost less
to manufacture and help save our precious natural resources. It's a
win-win situation."

"Where should we aim after 2000?" asks Gary Liss, a California-based
zero waste consultant. "Do we stop at 35 percent or 50 percent
recycling and build landfills and incinerators to handle the rest of
our waste? Or do we continue to build on the tremendous success of the
past decade and work to eliminate waste at the source?"

A Powerful Push

As a concept, zero waste has come a long way in a very short time.
Eric Lombardi, executive director of Boulder, Colorado's very
successful Eco-Cycle recycling program, says that the current U.S.
movement grew out of heated board discussions in the early 1990s at
the mainstream National Recycling Coalition (which has corporate
membership). "Half the group saw the value of the European EPR model
and half did not," Lombardi said. "We'd say that corporations should
use 25 percent recycled content in their products, and they'd reply
that it wasn't economically feasible. Ultimately, we decided that
coalitions are not a great place for getting anything done."

That experience led directly to the formation in 1996 of the
GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) as the U.S. advocate for zero
waste. "We needed a group that wouldn't get bogged down, that was free
to push the envelope," Lombardi says. And pushing the envelope is
exactly what GRRN does. The group's national coordinator, Bill
Sheehan, has led the network in a protracted and effective campaign
directed at Coca-Cola, which made--and failed to keep--a 1990 promise
to use 25 percent post-consumer waste in its plastic beverage bottles.
While Coke has not capitulated, it has agreed to use 10 percent
recycled content in a quarter of its bottles, making 2.5 percent total
content.

Further pressure on both Coke and Pepsi is coming from a group of
socially responsible investors, including Walden Asset Management and
the As You Sow Foundation. The shareholders filed a resolution in late
November asking the companies to not only use 25 percent recycled
content in their bottles, but also to put their weight behind
recycling programs to achieve an 80 percent recycling rate for their
beverage containers (two out of three of which are now landfilled).

"Zero waste is about challenging the ruling paradigm that says we can
manage waste safely in landfills and incinerators," Sheehan says. "All
the elements of a zero waste system are there, and it's a question of
bringing them together. We believe that some public officials will get
the vision and start piecing it together."

One city that seems to be "getting it" is Seattle, which in 1998
adopted zero waste as a guiding principle in its solid waste plan.
"This principle entails managing resources instead of waste," the city
said in a resolution, "conserving natural resources through waste
prevention and recycling; turning discarded resources into jobs and
new products instead of trash; promoting products and materials that
are durable; and discouraging products and materials that can only
become trash after their use." Two California counties have also
adopted zero waste goals, as has Carrboro, North Carolina.

There is growing conviction in solid waste circles that conventional
recycling has gone about as far as it's likely to go without
fundamental, society-wide changes. "Communities like Seattle and
Minneapolis have expended a lot of resources and hit a ceiling at
around the 60 percent recycling rate," says Sheehan. "Going beyond
that is very difficult, and the primary barriers are the lack of
manufacturer responsibility and the non-level playing field that
subsidizes wasting."

In a report called "Welfare for Waste," GRRN has documented 15 tax and
spending subsidies that directly benefit three industries--forestry,
petroleum and mining--whose products directly compete with recycled
material. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that public
subsidies for virgin materials puts recycling at a competitive
disadvantage," says Sheehan.

Europe Leads

In 1996, the President's Council on Sustainable Development
recommended that U.S. businesses adhere to what it called "extended
product responsibility." Priorities are considerably different in
Europe, where extended producer responsibility is a given and in many
cases, the law. The difference between the two concepts is large
enough to drive many truckloads of waste through. The Clinton
administration considers waste a shared responsibility between
government, industry and consumers. In Europe, the onus is on the
companies that produce it.

In some ways, voluntary efforts like Sony's in Minnesota are an effort
to head off mandatory government programs like those in Europe. "The
European programs won't necessarily be cost effective," says Mark
Small, Sony's vice president of environment, health and safety. "We're
trying to get a program up and running that will make both
environmental and business sense." An internal Sony document, leaked
to reporters last December, detailed its efforts to monitor
environmentalists and "cripple" efforts to pass electronic recycling
laws.

When Germany adopted its Packaging Ordinance of 1991, it was stepping
off into uncharted territory. The law, says Bette Fishbein, senior
fellow of the New York-based group INFORM Inc., shifted "the costs of
collecting, sorting and recycling used packaging from municipal
government to private industry," a revolutionary policy that "sent
shock waves around the world that reverberate to this day."

Packaging waste accounted for about a third (by weight) and a half (by
volume) of all the landfilled waste in Germany, and that's why it was
the first category to be addressed, although other planned initiatives
are targeting electronics and vehicles. Germany's landfill space
crisis--a problem it shares with many other European countries--made
such a radical solution not only necessary but politically palatable
as well.

The packaging law required deposits on packaging and take-back by
retailers (a system similar to the bottle bills in 10 U.S. states),
but it gave manufacturers an important "out" in allowing them to
design their own recycling program. Industry did, devising the Duales
System Deutschland (DSD), which adds a second bin for packaging waste
to the German household. Packaging bearing the now-famous "Green Dot"
logo is collected, sorted and recycled, with costs borne by the
producers.

In a 1998 report written for Pollution Prevention Review, Fishbein
reports that during its first four years, the Green Dot program cut
packaging consumption in Germany by a million tons. To avoid higher
costs down the road, manufacturers lightened their packages,
eliminated unnecessary packaging (like boxes within boxes), and
marketed their products in more concentrated forms. While it's
impossible to make a direct comparison, during the same period U.S.
packaging increased by 13 percent.

Despite its successes, the Green Dot program has been criticized by
some environmentalists because it's being run by the corporate sector,
and by industry groups that claim it's too expensive for the results
achieved and unnecessary as well. The European Organization for
Packaging and the Environment, a business trade group, charged that
"the idea of a rising mountain of packaging waste" is, in fact, "a
myth." In the early years of the program, there's no doubt that it
recovered too much waste for Germany's recycling infrastructure;
critics claimed that Green Dot was simply exporting the country's
problems. These complaints have since been resolved with a larger
domestic recycling capacity.

Green Dot spread to the 15 member states of the European Union in 1994
with the adoption of a less-stringent Packaging Directive, and various
programs are starting up. In England, for instance, 4,500 businesses
that each handle more than 50 tons of packaging per year have
registered with environmental agencies. Variations of the Green Dot
are in place all over the world, including programs in Poland,
Hungary, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. In Finland, for instance, an EPR law
has been in effect since 1997, and for 2001 it aims to reuse or
recycle 82 percent of packaging waste, and prevent another six percent
from being created in the first place. In Argentina, a proposed law
would label any packaging that isn't recyclable or reusable as
"hazardous waste."

The world leader in mandating zero waste may well be New Zealand,
which launched a national pilot project in 1999 to put major waste
reduction into place on the level of the country's local councils.
Zero Waste New Zealand Trust received an overwhelming response.
Designed for the participation of 10 councils, by mid-2000 the project
had 25, each funded with a $25,000 (NZ) grant. According to Warren
Snow, a Trust trustee, significant waste reduction is already being
recorded across the country. One district, Opotiki, says it has cut
landfilling from 10,000 tons to 3,500 per year, and expects to recover
80 percent of municipal waste by November. In the second half of 2000,
six stores in Auckland achieved zero waste status and no longer have
dumpsters on their premises. In one example, shoe buyers at The
Warehouse are asking suppliers to stop stuffing shoes with paper, and
that alone has reduced the store's waste stream by 15 percent. "New
Zealand has a history of doing things before the rest of the world,"
says Snow. "It was the first country in the world to give women the
vote, the first country to have a national nuclear-free policy and is
on the way to being a waste-free country."

Electronic and vehicle recycling is moving ahead elsewhere as well. In
Holland, a law that went into effect in 1999 requires computers,
appliances and other equipment to be taken back by their
manufacturers. Italy has required refrigerator takeback since 1997,
and is working on regulations for other appliances. Norway's program,
adopted in 1999, has very ambitious goals. Japan's law, covering many
electronic products, goes into effect this year.

The European Union has also drafted legislation for end-of-life
vehicles (ELVs), and sets an 80 percent recycling rate for 2005. As
Fishbein describes it, car owners would be required to obtain a
"certificate of deregistration" confirming that their vehicle had been
legally recycled.

A Long Way to Go

Anyone reading through that long list of international accomplishment
will be struck by how far behind the United States remains. But the
situation may soon change, as considerable ingenuity is being applied
to the colossal task of reducing America's waste stream--by far the
largest per capita in the world. The U.S., with just five percent of
the world's population, uses 25 percent of its resources. In 1997,
Americans threw out 430 billion pounds of garbage, or 1,600 pounds for
every man, woman and child. The GRRN report "Wasting and Recycling in
the U.S. 2000" indicates that between 1990 and 1997 plastic packaging
grew five times faster by weight than plastic recovered for recycling.
And according to Ecology of Commerce author Paul Hawken, 94 percent of
the materials used in the manufacture of the average U.S. product are
thrown away before the product even reaches the shelves.

It's plain that recycling alone can't hope to significantly shrink
that mountain of trash. Brenda Platt of the Washington-based Institute
for Local Self-Reliance says the key is to stop thinking about waste
as a problem and to start thinking about it as an opportunity--in
effect, from waste to wealth. "We've been documenting record-setting
waste reduction programs on the local level," she says. "Some
communities, like Seattle and San Jose, have achieved 65 percent
reductions."

One of the keys is composting. Peter Anderson, chairman of the
National Recycling Coalition's policy group, says that 15 percent of
the U.S. waste stream is food and another 35 percent is unrecoverable
paper, like fast food wrappers soaked in fryer oil. "All of that can
be composted, and if we separated it from dry waste and got it out of
landfills, we'd be half way to zero waste."

Platt agrees. "You have to get the organics out of the waste stream.
And that doesn't mean just leaves in the fall, but yard clippings year
'round. And if you target only newspapers, bottles and cans, you're
addressing 15 percent of the waste stream. You have to go beyond that
to include things like oil filters and textiles." Many communities
have found themselves with dramatic savings by the simple expedient of
unit-pricing their garbage, a procedure commonly known as "pay as you
throw." The end result of such whole cycle thinking, she says, may not
be zero waste, but it will be pretty darn close.

Source reduction can be extremely cost-effective. Platt says that
moving beyond 50 to 60 percent recycling rates can be expensive, but
communities can actually save money by reducing waste at the source.
"They actually begin to reduce trash so much they can cut some garbage
pickup and shift personnel to recycling--they no longer need two
parallel staffs." Platt is the co-author of an Institute report that
concludes that sorting and processing recyclables sustains 10 times
more jobs than landfilling or incinerating.

Some of the new ideas add whole new dimensions to the phrase "reduce,
reuse and recycle." Gary Liss, for one, is an advocate of resource
recovery parks, several of which have sprung up in California. The
idea, he says, is to create one central location for recycling,
composting and reuse facilities, together with manufacturing and
retailing. The goal is to allow the public to instantly recover value
from their waste, while also shopping for goods made from that waste.
As in industrial parks, the businesses can share management, space,
operating equipment, maintenance and even advertising expenses.

In Berkeley, California, a former steel pipe manufacturer has been
transformed into a 2.2-acre reuse demonstration project called Urban
Ore, featuring departments that retail building materials, hardware,
arts and media equipment, as well as a general store. Urban Ore hopes
to add satellite businesses that will rebuild and upgrade old
computers, make countertops out of recycled glass, and fashion unique
items from scrap steel.

"We are using our materials very inefficiently today," says Liss. "We
could produce 100 times the products with the same resources if we
were looking at the total system on a holistic basis. And it doesn't
have to be altruistic." Liss cites zero waste initiatives that are
already underway at such companies as Xerox (which calls its program
"Xero Waste"), Fetzer Vineyards and Hewlett-Packard. Here are some
industry standouts:

Oregon-based computer printer maker Epson recycles 90 percent of its
materials, and disposes of the rest at a waste-to-energy facility
(which produces only 10 percent residue for landfilling);

California's Fetzer Vineyards has reduced its garbage outflow by 93
percent in the last seven years, and is aiming for zero waste by 2009.
The vineyard composts 12 cubic yards of corks and 10,000 tons of grape
seeds every year;

Mad River Brewery, in Blue Lake, California, diverts 98 percent of its
waste from landfills, which leaves only enough garbage to fill two 90-
gallon cans per week. In 1998, the beer company's waste reduction
efforts saved it more than $35,000. The company takes back six-pack
containers and donates plastic grain packaging for remanufacture into
reusable shopping bags;

Pillsbury's baking operations in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, divert 96
percent of their waste, and the company is aiming for 100 percent. The
company recycled or reused enough paper in 1999 to save 200,000 trees,
82 million gallons of water and 48 million kilowatts of electricity.
Pillsbury uses rented or recycled shipping pallets, and recently
increased the recycled content of its folding cartons to 50 percent;

Xerox, based in Rochester, New York, has adopted the Waste-Free
Factory as its ideal. It's not there yet, but in 1998 the company's
worldwide recycling rate reached 88 percent, saving the company $45
million.

There are dozens more examples. Lowell Paul Dairy of Greeley,
Colorado, sells milk in returnable and refillable bottles. Collins &
Aikman, carpet makers of Dalton, Georgia, actually achieved zero
landfill waste in 1998 while the company was increasing production by
300 percent (without increasing energy use). The Amdahl Corporation, a
computer software business in Santa Clara, California, has achieved 90
percent waste diversion since 1990.

Legislatures can make waste diversion easier by writing it into law.
The disposal ban is gathering force with Massachusetts' decision to
stop allowing cathode ray tubes into its landfills. (New Jersey is
also considering such a ban.) By 2010, Massachusetts wants to reduce
municipal solid waste by 70 percent statewide. Some 23 states ban some
or all yard waste from its dumps, 32 states refuse to accept tires,
and 16 states ban large appliances. California's San Diego County bans
materials it deems recyclable. According to Zero Waste America (ZWA),
"Recycling goals do not stop waste disposal. Recyclables can end up in
landfills and incinerators if there is no disposal ban in place."

Lynn Landes, ZWA's Pennsylvania-based founder and director, is a
vigorous proponent of disposal bans, and she says there would be more
of them in effect if the federal government were doing its job. Landes
takes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to task for failing to
enforce the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976, which required all
states to develop individual plans to maximize waste reduction and
recycling. Although there was a 1980 deadline, many states never
developed plans. The law itself hasn't been enforced since 1987, when
the Reagan administration defunded it. Landes notes that even without
funding, the law is still in effect and the EPA could be sued in
federal court for ignoring it.

Bottle bills are hardly a new idea, but they remain a highly effective
legislative approach to reducing landfill clutter. Oregon was the
first state to put a cash deposit on cans and bottles, in 1970, and
California was the most recent, in 1986. Since then, though some
cities have inaugurated bottle redemption on their own (most notably,
Columbia, Missouri), the number of bottle bill states has been frozen
at 10, despite the fact that the laws are extremely effective.
According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), in deposit
states an average of 80 percent of beverage bottles and cans are
recycled; in non-deposit states, that figure is only 40 percent.
"Beverage containers are five percent of the waste stream, and with
bottle bills we can get them to near-zero waste," says Pat Franklin,
CRI executive director. "If we add deposits in 19 other areas, one for
each five percent, the zero waste goal would be in sight."

As Sheehan points out, 55 percent of all recycled containers come from
the 10 states with bottle bills. Curbside collection, he said, is no
guarantee that bottles or cans will actually be recycled, since a high
percentage of such collections are contaminated. "Bottle bills give
people a financial incentive to recycle, and the containers collected
at redemption centers are clean, giving them a much higher value in
the marketplace," Sheehan says.

Why haven't more states adopted bottle bills? Chalk that up to the
incredible lobbying power of the beverage industry, which uses an
organization it funds heavily, the anti-litter group Keep America
Beautiful, to wave the anti-bottle-bill flag. The industry also
creates grassroots groups to fight its battles on the ground. In
Washington, D.C., for instance, a beverage industry front group called
the Clean Capital City Committee spent a record $2.3 million in 1987
to convince voters that a proposed bottle bill would amount to a
hidden tax, would mean higher prices for consumers, lost sales and
lost jobs. The bill, favored by 70 percent of voters at the outset of
industry's campaign, was ultimately defeated by a 10 percent margin.

Since corporate America increasingly treasures a green image, it no
longer openly fights environmental initiatives, though its heft behind
the scenes is considerable. It has so far successfully dodged
responsibility for packaging waste; fought off bottle bills; and
protected its right to pollute in a myriad of ways. At the same time,
these corporations have proven highly vulnerable to embarrassing media
campaigns that expose the wolf behind the sheep's clothing. And a
handful of activists are attacking the pressure points, making the
case for zero waste in America.

Copyright E Magazine 2001

Return to Table of Contents

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
From: International Herald Tribune, Dec. 13, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

EU COMPROMISE ON CHEMICAL BILL

By Thomas Fuller

PARIS -- European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

PARIS European Union governments on Tuesday unanimously approved a
compromise version of a wide-ranging but controversial bill that sets
safety standards for the chemicals industry.

The so-called Reach bill still needs a second approval from the
European Parliament and formal agreement among the EU's 25 member
states, but officials said that most of the major hurdles for the
legislation, which the European Commission proposed two years ago, had
been surmounted.

Ecologists criticized the governments for stripping out what they
called key provisions of the bill, more formally known as
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

Organizations representing the business community said they would
lobby to have some provisions changed before the bill takes effect,
possibly in spring 2007.

The Reach system would replace a patchwork of laws regulating the
chemical industry and would create a European database of chemicals
and rate their safety.

The law would require companies to gather information on chemicals
they import or produce in volumes of over one ton per year and submit
them to a new European Chemicals Agency, which will be based in
Helsinki.

Any company that does not register their chemicals will be banned from
manufacturing or importing them into the European Union. Chemicals
that are considered dangerous will require testing and authorization
in order to be used.

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 different chemicals are
produced in quantities of one ton or more a year.

The commission said the agreement struck a balance by protecting
citizens and the environment without placing onerous restrictions on
the chemicals industry, which employs about 3.2 million people in the
EU.

"This is the kind of legislation which will not satisfy either side,
and because it does not satisfy either side it is a good compromise,"
said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission's
environment directorate.

But among lobbyists in Brussels, representatives of the industry
seemed to be happier about the bill than ecologists.

Maria Fernanda Fau, a spokeswoman for Unice, the main business lobby
in Brussels, called the decision Tuesday a "reasonable political
agreement."

The European Chemical Industry Council said the accord was "another
step forward in the process leading to workable and effective
legislation."

By contrast, Caroline Lucas, a British member of the European
Parliament from the Green Party, said governments had "made a big
Christmas present to the chemical industry."

The version of the bill agreed upon Tuesday, she said, does not make
it mandatory for businesses to use a safer alternative, wherever
possible, to a potentially dangerous chemical, but instead requires
businesses to "assess" an alternative.

"This is very bad decision making at the expense of human health and
the environment," Lucas said.

On a political level, the agreement Tuesday was a victory for Britain,
which was eager to build up a list of achievements during its six-
month presidency of the EU, which ends this month.

Copyright 2005 the International Herald Tribune

Return to Table of Contents

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
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please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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