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AGENDA FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
A policy of the California Resource Recovery Association
Table of Contents
As the oldest state association of professionals in reuse, repair, recycling and composting in the United States, the California Resource Recovery Association offers our vision of how we can move towards a more sustainable, resource efficient economy. We must move swiftly. Currently, although Americans comprise only 5% of the global population, we use 30% of the world's resources.1 Equally alarming, global population doubled for the first time during the last four decades, and can be expected to double again during the next four. Cancer cells consume and grow without limit; people cannot afford to do so.
Our use of materials would take less of a toll on the planet if the service or product with the lowest price also did the least harm. We should not have to pay once to acquire an object, again to be rid of it, and yet again to cleanup the damage from the extraction and disposal. There is no convenient, reliable way for people to compare the environmental and social lifecycle impacts of different products, including extraction, processing, packaging, delivery, recovery and ultimate disposal. We are working for a sustainable materials economy which treads lighter on the planet, where reuse and recovery are more convenient than disposal.
Our goals are:
To truly improve the material efficiency of our culture and economy, over the next forty years we must change everything: how we manage our public lands; how our elected officials finance campaigns and assess taxes; how we design and manage our communities; how we design products and services; how industries and government work together to improve resource and energy efficiency; and how we define waste. We invite you to join us in helping to achieve this vision.
As the oldest state recycling organization in the United States,
As people devoted to salvage and recovery,
As reusers, repairers, collectors, recyclers, composters, salvagers, processors, brokers, and recycling-based inventors, artists, and manufacturers,
As designers and craftspeople building more resource efficient communities,
As businesses reducing wastes and buying reusable and recyclable products,
As California professionals working for governments, non-profits, and private enterprises dedicated to resource conservation and recovery, and
As we approach the next thousand years of human civilization,
We are inspired to assess the progress of our material culture and chart a course for the future of resource conservation in California. For the first time in history, people over 40 in their lifetimes have witnessed a doubling of the global population,3 while the average residential space per American also doubled.4 As global population can be expected to double again over the next four decades, we simply cannot continue our current course of increasing material consumption per person in California.
To improve the inefficiency of our material economy, we must change Federal and State laws to protect our long-term interests. Federal and State stewardship of public lands is undermined by outdated policies which facilitate the extraction of the resources in the name of short term economic development. Under Federal and State regulations, new landfills are designed to protect the water and air for thirty years, but will almost certainly leak or require repair for hundreds or thousands of years afterwards. Because of the political challenge of siting and the cost of constructing new landfills, we are witnessing the loss of local self-reliance as small local landfills are replaced by larger regional landfills.
Local government has been given the responsibility for administering safe collection
and disposal, composting or recycling of all discards.
What have we learned? In the last ten years, research has reaffirmed how important reuse, recycling and composting are for the environment, and highlighted the challenges ahead. Most environmental impacts of our material culture come from the extraction, processing, and delivery of material goods.6 It's as if each product casts a long shadow representing the impacts of mining, clearcutting, refining, manufacturing, and trucking. Environmentally, the problem with our material culture is not disposal, but the need to mine and make new goods to replace those we failed to reuse, repair or recycle.7 Despite being widely acknowledged as a "top priority," waste prevention remains a very small part of most municipal waste reduction programs. Organic debris can be made into mulch and compost which can increase water retention, suppress diseases, and reduce pesticide use in agriculture, but these benefits are only evident after several years of continued use.8 Collecting mixed waste in a single truck reduces the labor costs of waste collection, but often drastically reduces the value of materials which may be recovered from the waste stream. Unit pricing for disposal can reduce waste, but increases reliance on other recovery systems. Incineration of mixed waste has nine times the negative environmental impacts of recycling facilities,9 while competing for resources which may otherwise be recycled.
As citizens or businesses, almost by definition, most people don't really want to deal
with garbage. After a product has finished its useful life, most people just want a safe
place to get rid of it, whether into a trash can, recycling bin or compost bucket. Today
citizens pay three times for the stuff in our lives: once as consumers, again for someone
to collect and manage our discards, and again in waning quality of life or taxes to clean
up waste which has been littered, dumped, or has leaked due to the eventual failure of the
disposal system. There is no convenient, reliable way for citizens to see the
environmental, social and political impacts of extraction, processing
Recycling in California is changing, and we can make it better. During last two an a half decades our members have instigated the most rapid increase in recycling and composting facilities California has ever seen. Recycling and composting is growing more convenient with expanding drop-off and buy-back recycling centers, curbside collection programs, materials recovery facilities, municipal composting facilities, and new recycling-based manufacturing facilities. As a result, for many members of our communities the term recycling has become nearly synonymous with all resource conservation: whether it be waste reduction, composting, repair, or water conservation. Ironically, the widespread availability of recycling collection gives the false impression that recycling solves our environmental problems and further action to reduce consumption is unnecessary.10
The recycling industry has also changed. California has witnessed the assimilation of
hundreds of small haulers by large refuse collection
California laws regarding "recycling" and "waste" are under
constant attack. Both incineration and use of alternative daily cover in landfills have
been redefined by the legislature to coincineration and use of alternative daily cover in
landfills have been redefined by the legislature to count as "recycling." Six
years later, there still is no legal mechanism requiring State agencies to comply with the
Recovery, reuse, recycling and composting businesses tend to be smaller and more locally-based and produce far more jobs than disposal alone. For products with deposits, there stand ready citizens who are willing and able to expand collections. As other programs have been cut, the money from recycling is also a substantial portion of income for many of California's most destitute citizens. All across the state, recycling programs are operated by non-profits who also serve youth, seniors, the mentally handicapped, and the homeless. Tire retreading operations, bottle washing facilities and diaper services all create more local jobs than their single-use counterparts. We demand manufacturers take greater responsibility for their products and will support and applaud their action to do so. Businesses and citizens are incorporating lifecycle design into processes and products under conservation paradigms such as ISO 14000, Permaculture, Biologic, industrial ecology, Designing for the Environment, natural building, and co-housing. We know we can save money, increase jobs, and help the environment. Our members do it every day.
On an individual level, a movement to "Live simply" is quietly blossoming.
Many people are beginning to realize that we can each reduce
To truly improve the material efficiency of our culture and economy, over the next forty years we must change everything: how we manage our public lands, how our elected officials finance campaigns, how we design and manage our communities, how we design products and services, and how we define waste. We must move towards a state of zero waste: items which cannot be safely assimilated into the environment simply cannot be sold, but only leased.
A national materials policy encouraging conservation and resource recovery, monitoring
and reporting of environmental impacts, and/or taxing extraction and pollution. In a Zero
Waste world, product designers simply could not avoid considering the impacts of their
Public information and local control. Local communities would be able to set higher local standards for environmental quality and tax for depletion or degradation of resources. Local government would educate citizens about waste prevention, composting, and proper handling of durables and no-sales, and would undertake local enforcement and reporting on compliance with environmental laws. Measures of national and state success such as Gross Domestic Product would be modified to subtract costs for environmental cleanup, crime, and social dissolution, and to count the value of volunteer and other non-monetary contributions to the economy. Citizens and businesses could access a convenient, reliable source of product information, including linked descriptions of the most common materials, mining and processing methods used to produce goods.
Zero Waste: Elimination of discards which do not fit into one of the following categories:
Compostable or consumable. The product and package are a safe food for a living organism, or otherwise rendered stable and non-toxic. Local government would retain the responsibility for administering the collection and processing of food waste and other compostables as necessary to protect public health.
Durables: services not stuff. Many products including cars, TVs, tires, recyclable
materials and computers would remain the property and
No-sales: makers' takers. This portion of the materials stream includes toxins, refined heavy metals, and items which cannot be rendered stable and non-toxic or safely used as refined heavy metals, and items which cannot be rendered stable and non-toxic or safely used as food for a living organism.
Zero Waste is our guiding principle. We will reach our quest in stages, with policies stepping toward 2000, and a 2020 Vision for policies in the longer term. We do not expect that this initiative will be popular with those who profit from the inefficiencies of our material economy. This change will likely only be possible through a cooperative effort with all organizations and individuals promoting conservation, waste prevention, recycling, composting, and complementary perspectives. We want your help, and we stand ready to support all who walk with us down the path to Zero Waste.
Zero Waste: Garbage is an unfunded mandate
Citizens should not have to pay once to acquire an object, again to be rid of it, and yet again to clean up the damage from the extraction and disposal. We have a market where the price signals, the incentives, and the information do not fully reflect the real costs of extraction and disposal. Even with the most stringent controls, neither landfilling nor incineration adequately protect the environment, as both fail to preserve, return or adequately recover the resources discarded. Unless we fix these aspects of the market, our growing population and consumption will widen our path torn through the interconnected web of life.
Examples / Explanation
Continue to recognize and promote improvements in material and energy efficiency: innovative model businesses, local programs and integration of zero waste into community planning. Local adoption of Zero Waste policies, workshops, meetings, case studies, web sites, existing awards programs. California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) could work with the Department of Education to assure that classroom media do not promote consumption over conservation. Promote diversion like energy and water utilities promote conservation.
Identify research and internship priorities, and work with student networks to organize advocacy and research. Full-cost accounting of landfill and incineration disposal; internships focusing on the collection, processing, remanufacturing and marketing of a specific material; performance testing of reusable, recycled products; cross-reference standard industrial classification codes to study recovery.
Advocate for ending subsidies for landfills and incinerators. Advocate research for facilities which manage and contain accelerated decomposition or otherwise achieve environmental stability of unrecoverable refuse. Oppose "put or pay" contracts for disposal facilities. Promote facilities which are designed primarily for resource recovery rather than incineration or landfilling. Support revision of RCRA Subtitle D to require control of impacts for as long as waste poses a significant threat.
Promote industry-by-industry model businesses and training on waste prevention and resource conservation. Advocate that waste reduction, reuse, and composting facilities should have access to the financing associated with other large public works projects.Industry waste reduction profiles through trade associations, minimum content standards, develop and promote hierarchy of waste prevention. Promote voluntary adoption of Zero Waste pledges by industries and communities, Waste Reduction Award Program, advocacy of variable can rates.
Support the 50% diversion mandate through 2000, with progress towards zero waste afterwards measured by additional jurisdictional five-year waste reduction goals. Zero waste would be achieved in each community by establishing a material-specific recovery program and banning that material from the landfill or incinerator. Such bans could compliment waste reduction goals. CRRA will advocate for establishing community and material specific waste reduction or elimination goals, and allowing citizens to sue if such goals are not achieved.
Support the right of local communities to say how much or how little environmental degradation they are willing to tolerate. Work to establish waste reduction goals and support enforcement through citizen suits. States and cities increase control of products and packaging that pose an undue burden on the environment such as non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and toxic materials and excessive packaging. Support diversion incentives for local collection and/or processing companies.
Advocate that State agencies must adhere to all local ordinances passed to comply with State mandates. The State should not be allowed to mandate local responsibility without allowing for local planning and control. Existing law allows State agencies to sidestep local ordinances and franchises, yet local agencies are required to plan for recycling and disposal capacity for these same State agencies.
Promote diverse local adoption of mandatory deposit laws for target materials, to be implemented by 2005 unless an adequate State deposit law is implemented first. Durables and no-sales must have established recovery programs by 2005, or will be required to implement take-back programs. Existing recycling programs would shift to funding by industry-run non-profits established to coordinate material reprocessing systems. Recovered no-sales would be safely stored at manufacturer's expense until they could be detoxified.
Advocate requiring manufacturers to be responsible for 50% of the packaging sold in the State by 2010, increasing to 100% responsibility by 2020.This policy is similar to that examined in the 1993 California Futures report to the CIWMB.12 One model for the take back program would be the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association, an industry-run non-profit collection and recovery system charging license fees for its "seal."
To truly improve the material efficiency of our economy, we must place a higher value on the resources we extract from the earth than those we can pull from the waste stream. At very least, we must remove all subsidies which encourage the consumption and disposal of the resources our government stewards for our grandchildren and their descendants. Our laws must shift focus from managing wastes at the tail end of the pipe, to reducing the flow of new materials into the economy.
No More Money for Mining
Both national and state studies have listed the numerous, complicated subsidies for extraction and energy production. These subsidies make virgin extraction and manufacturing less expensive compared to recycling-based manufacturing. Creating programs and laws to reuse, recycle and compost is one way to value the resources in our economy. Another is to eliminate the laws which devalue our resources and subsidize extraction and waste.
Examples / Explanation
Advocate replacing employment taxes with equivalent user fees and taxes on disposal, mining and/or resource extraction. Defend and expand bottle bill provisions making manufacturers pay processing costs and requiring that recycling be convenient. Add containers to the bottle bill and increase deposits on tires. Advance disposal fees and disposal surcharges are intermediate steps toward including the full cost of landfill or incineration into current prices. Tax bads, not goods.
Network of CRRA activists and representatives work on tax reform, legislative subsidies, and national resource policy issues. Have tax and resource policy web links on homepage, newsletters, articles. Work with groups and declare the theme for Earth Day 2000 to be Zero Waste.
Support the elimination of timber subsidies.13 End subsidies. Make loggers pay for new roads on timber lands. Increase timber yield tax.
Support the elimination of energy subsidies. End subsidies for energy related to oil severance taxes, percentage depletion deductions, and expensing of intangible drilling costs. Depletion deductions also subsidize nonfuel mining.
Advocate that tax and resource use policies be subject to CEQA and NEPA. As both State and National tax policies have direct bearing on the costs of extraction, and the magnitude of associated impacts, it is reasonable to demand these policies should be subject to existing standards of environmental review.
Support efforts at the national level to eliminate timber and energy subsidies, and tax pollution, disposal, and resource depletion. In a political climate dominated by debate of budget deficits and program cuts, government handouts of this magnitude are fiscally and environmentally inexcusable, and must be abolished. Eliminate federal "welfare for wasting", to include: below-cost mining leases through the Mining Law of 1872 (under which our government signed over title to $15 billion of our mineral resources for $16,000 in 1994 alone); below-cost timber sales; energy subsidies (over $26 billion annually); depletion allowances (over $1 billion annually); and tax code benefits to the timber industry (over $450 million annually). Conduct joint protests with tax reform and conservation groups - perhaps making Zero Waste a theme for Earth Day 2000.
Leading with a label
For a free market to offer real choices, consumers must have full knowledge of the
product or service they purchase, including the costs
Examples / Explanation
Support research, advocacy and exchange to reduce waste and spread ideas which help us each to reduce our impact on the earth. Expanding public awareness that the quantity and toxicity of coal and metal mining wastes dwarf the quantity of materials put into landfills. This is key to describing the full impacts of our materials economy.
Begin assembling a database of resources available to the public which are helpful in assessing the mass balance of inputs, outputs, cross-media transfers (e.g. evaporation of liquids), and discards for all major industrial processes, starting with the most commonly used packaging materials. The Packaging Study by the Tellus Institute provides a model for assessing the first-order lifecycle impact of a specific material.
Work closely with industry associations to develop and advocate a model form of environmental labeling.The laudable efforts of companies such as Green Seal and Scientific Certification Systems are steps in the right direction. The nutritional labeling of food products also provides a good model of how to briefly summarize a complex set of information.
Campaign Finance Reform
As professionals in resource recovery, we are all too familiar with the hundreds of political campaigns each year which are won using corporate contributions. In return, companies are compensated with increased privileges or additional subsidies for resource extraction. Like tax reform, campaign finance reform is a very complicated topic, but it is critical to improving the resource efficiency of our economy. We must support actions by other groups in this direction.
Increase network communications with groups working on campaign finance reform. Share articles , include web links. Publish list of legislators receiving largest contributions from most wasteful companies.
As opportunity arises, challenge or reverse through legislation court decisions that:
These legal opinions are two of the most fundamental hurdles to real campaign finance reform. In a society where every person and corporation are entitled to all the free speech they can buy, the individual cannot speak as freely as the wealthy corporation.
Jumpstart Local Jobs with Discards and Design
Reuse, composting and recycling conserve resources, create jobs and build communities. A principle impediment to increasing material recovery is unlimited, low cost disposal. Large, centralized disposal systems like landfills and incinerators are simpler for politicians to sell, governments to manage and insure, banks to finance, and businesses to make profitable. Decentralized systems are more local, more complex, and a greater challenge to manage as a public works project, but fundamentally more resilient to changes in the marketplace.
Research has shown that reuse and repair are not only a top priority in waste reduction, but also the best opportunities for creating jobs per ton of material recovered. Simply sorting and processing recyclables sustains 5 to 10 times more jobs than incineration or landfilling.15 Each step a community takes to add value to materials recovered from the stream of discards means more local jobs and more local self-reliance. Our businesses create jobs, use local materials, and help the environment. Unfortunately the entry capital costs and risks are high, and the profit margins are low. When we reach zero waste, the fees adequate to sustain these recovery businesses will be collected at the purchase counter, not at the gate of the landfill.
More zero waste jobs are found by swimming upstream to designers, analysts and code
officials. We can support schools of design which
Examples / Explanation
Advocate reducing the cost of performance testing of products with high potential for waste reduction. Work with CIWMB to promote design principles for waste reduction and models for performance specifications and testing for recycled products, crop-specific compost applications, and local zoning and building codes.
Work with members and local governments to establish model integrated recovery facilities, incorporating serial drop-off, salvage, and resale. Urban Ore in Berkeley and Recycletown in Santa Rosa serve as some of the first examples of how to incorporate salvage and resale into a flexible, multi-material recovery operation.
Advocate and defend the right of entrepreneurs to be paid for collection and recovery of discards.
Advocate for adequate capital to be available for reuse and recovery as well as for recycling and composting.
Update policy affirming that salvage and recovery services should be allowed to charge a fee for their services, and that new garbage franchises should preserve or create ongoing incentives to encourage private initiative to increase recovery. Work with CIWMB to address problems obtaining capital for new recycling-based manufacturers.
Advocate for increased agricultural use of compost and mulch products derived from urban yard debris. Market incentives must address investment costs, which exceed short-term benefit. The Federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program offers growers long-term contracts that provide cost-sharing payments for eligible conservation practices, and a similar program could be set up for the use of compost and mulch.
Support and coordinate with planners, architects, code officials, and designers who are working to design services, products, buildings and communities with less impact on the environment.
Continue to work with other groups working on performance-based design and codes, ISO 14000, Designing for the Environment, Biologic, natural building, and other design paradigms which improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.
Support increasing recycled content, standard environmental labeling, and other market development initiatives. Expand California's Buy Recycled Training Manual, expand and improve environmental labeling, work to establish mechanisms to reduce risk or cost of capital for recovery and composting facilities.
Advocate that 15% of beverage containers under the bottle bill are refilled in 2005, using tradeable credits. Refer to the 1993 Report to the CIWMB by California Futures.
Tedd Ward, principal author,
with contributions from the Grassroots Recycling Network, Rick Anthony, Steve Suess, Gary Liss, Jeffrey Smedberg, Susan Kinsella, Dan Knapp, Brenda Platt, Neil Seldman, David Kirkpatrick, Bill Sheehan, Howard Levenson, Sandra Jerabek, Bill Shireman, Rick Best, Dan DeGrassi and the rest of the California Resource Recovery Association.
1. Hayes, Dennis. "Eco-nomic Power," Seattle Weekly. 10 November 1993
2. See Institute for Local Self-Reliance, "The Economic Benefits of Recycling," 1993; Recycling Economic Development through Scrap-based manufaDevelopment through Scrap-based manufacturing," 1994.
3. Ratloff, Janet. "The Human Numbers Crunch," Science News, Vol. 149. 22 June 1996.
4. Durning, Alan. "Saving the Forest: What Will It Take?," Worldwatch Paper #117 (Worldwatch Institute, 1993).
5. See The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations 1993.
6. Schall, John. "Does the Solid Waste Management Hierarchy Make Sense?," 1992.
7. Tellus Institute, CSG / Tellus Packaging Study: Assessing the impacts of production and disposal of packaging and public policy measures to alter its mix, 1992.
8. Relis and Levenson, "Using Urban Organics in Agriculture," BioCycle, April 1997.
9. US Environmental Protection Agency, 1981.
10. Belden & Russonello, "Report of Findings from Focus Groups on Population, Consumption, and the Environment," July 1993.
11. See Rathje & Murphy Rubbish: The Archaeology of Garbage, 1992. This is supported by several general conclusions in that book, including "The more repetitive your diet...the less food you waste." (p.62), and "...products that are used on a regular basis exhibit very little waste." (p. 76).
12. California Futures, "Cost-Benefit Analysis of Six Market Development Policy Options", May 1993. It should be noted that the analysis of this policy only examines the disposal savings, and not the savings from reduced extraction.
13. Tellus Institute, Gainer & Associates, et.al., "Incentives for Virgin and Secondary Materials Production," 1992.
14. U.S. Supreme Court, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886. Court ruled that a private corporation was a "natural person".
15. See Institute for Local Self-Reliance, "The Economic Benefits of Recycling," 1993; Recycling Economic Development Through Scrap-based manufacturing," 1994; and "Recycling Means Business," 1995.
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