Richard’s Words of Wisdom
When I came to San Diego in 1987, I was directed by the County Board of Supervisors to reduce landfill disposal by one-third in three years. In four years, we reduced the tonnage at the county landfills by about fifty percent. This year, more professionals are looking at discards as resources and implementing effective ways to capture them for recycling and composting. An effective way to reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs is to recycle and compost everything. To do this, we need to redesign products and packages where at the end of its use options like reuse, repair, recycling and composting are available. As we realize earth’s resources are finite, the closed circle economy becomes the basis of the industry. My travels this year convince me that indeed there is a global movement and it’s about resources.
In January, Captain Moore suggested showing the Movie “Trash” in Hawaii and having a discussion about zero waste. The film showing led to an island-wide meeting. The events I spoke at were well-attended by locals.
My next stop after Hawaii was Lisbon, Portugal. What a pretty city with the most intelligent cab drivers yet. From there I flew to Munich for a meeting with the German Solid Waste Group in Tutzing. This Bavarian Town is at the foot of the Alps and with the winter snow on the ground, it made for a great retreat. I learned that “Cradle to Cradle”, redesign and repair, as well as Zero Waste were topics of discussion in the area. In Berlin, I spoke at a research laboratory. On the tour, I learned that they were testing Rhine river water and finding plastic compounds.
I headed back to Hawaii for a workshop with Captain Moore, Paul Connett, Ruth Abbe and Angela Kang. A week before the event, the Mayor wanted to stop the use of the incinerators and called for more composting. We celebrated the victory and focused the workshop on Zero Waste as a solution and composting as a large part of the discussion. The workshop was well-attended by locals, representatives of the other Islands and City staff. During the time I was there, I had a chance to see “Plastic Paradise”, a story of the potential extinction of the Albatross due to marine plastic debris. Many of the attendees cried and reflected on ways to stop the extinction.
From January until April, I did planning for Earth Fair San Diego. This year, we had one-hundred and twenty volunteers serving thirty zero waste stations in an open event (no gate) with over three-hundred vendors. We tried out a new bin sign design that could accommodate a crowd of fifty-thousand people. We recovered edible food (five-hundred pounds!) by the end of the day for The Mission and captured over four-thousand pounds of separated recyclables and compostable organics.
In May, the USZWBC was held at the Biltmore, a great venue in downtown Los Angeles. The Major came with all his staff and praised the goal of zero waste. We closed the conference several days later with Eric Lombardi, Captain Moore and I calling for action.
The World Resource Forum was held in Sydney and I was invited to present a workshop on zero waste. Gerry Gillespie, Colleen Foster, a technical assistant from Captain Moore, and I showed that there is “no away” (marine debris). We delivered the message that zero waste redesign, recycling (Oceanside) and composting (Australia) is the right direction. On that trip, Deb and I went to Adelaide and found an “Unmaking Waste” Conference. It was there I found ZWIA founding member Warren Snow and councilmembers from New Zealand learning about the Australian Deposit System and the advantages of developing a zero waste city plan. After Adelaide, we stayed at the Kangaroo Island preserve for a few days and saw Kangaroos and Koala bears. Australia is wide open, healthy, with lots of people on the streets and an upbeat attitude.
I got back to the States just in time to attend the San Diego City Council meeting on July 13, 2015 where by unanimous vote the Council approved the City of San Diego Zero Waste Plan.
In August, we were able to begin door-to-door outreach in large multifamily units and a project to help Fort Collins, Colorado develop a city recycling ordinance. In Fort Collins, Colorado State University and New Belgian Brewery (Fat Tire) are both zero waste leaders.
A bonus was a chance to speak about Resource Recovery Parks at SWANA in Orlando. Luckily, Disney understands how to grow food. All the food is grown without pesticides, vertically and hydroponically for the whole facility. They believe“everything is connected”.
In August, CRRA had an International Day. We visited five cities and eventually made it to Davos. Captain Moore keynoted with “there is no away”. Ruth Abbe announced the Albatross Coalition.We spoke to a lot of Mayors, school children and regular people. In every citiy we did a lot of walking and for the most part felt safe everywhere. The Falls were mind-blowing. They are truly a marvel of nature. We stayed both downtown and in the Palermo district of Buenos Aries and enjoyed the parks and food.
Today we are home. I decided not to go to Paris because of a new contract with CSULB to do a Zero Waste Plan and other proposals to San Diego County. I have a good feeling that there is a growing social movement throughout the world that embraces the environment and wants to work to protect it for the future. Bring on 2016.
ZWIA, ZWUSA, CRRA, USZWBC, ZWSD
Now is the time to adopt locally and globally a zero waste approach to resource management. The foundation of this approach is documented by www.Zwia.org and is based on global and business principles. We should insist on:
-No burn (incineration), no bury (landfill) projects and policies
-Local democracy for community decisions on discard rules for products and practices
-Product redesign for recycling or composting for community health and safety
Zero waste practices creates benefits for our community. Local level programs can provide jobs and resources for future populations. We can no longer tolerate pollution as an acceptable practice. Cost analysis should show the true cost of products and packaging using a “cradle to cradle” process (product, use, and back to product), not a “cradle to grave” process (product, use, landfill/incinerator). Burning or burying discards should never be a design option.
Scarcity of the world’s resources was a topic addressed at the World Resource Forum. Similarly, the European Union has discussed current targets including recovering all metal, burning no trees, and culture change. Why are we arguing about waste vs. resource management? Waste management plans regulate discard management without concern for resources and waste and pollution emissions’ through landfill and incineration. At the International Sustainability Conference, it was suggested that Zero Waste was the goal.
Let’s advocate a zero waste approach to planning, prevention, and recovery. These should include:
-Discarding composition sorts into the 12 “master resource categories” to show markets and value and identify current market and facility voids (no local markets)
-Focus up-steam (before use at the purchasing level) on prevention (new rules in purchasing and new programs for preventing discards, reduce and reuse), using highest and best use as priorities (feeding people, then animals and then the soil)
-Redesign recovery programs to collect and process discards into marketable resources
-Ban special discards designed for landfill and incineration
-Develop policies, programs and needed facilities to attain a Zero Waste goal
All data would be gathered around the 12 market categories. Stakeholder meetings (reusers, recyclers, composters, environmental activists would be held by commodity (reuse, paper, metal, glass, plastic, compostable organics, wood etc.) to deal with supply and demand issues, spotlighting Zero Waste champions (Zero Waste cities and businesses) as case studies.
Goal: Zero Waste by 2040 by locally and globally.
-Culture change (move from consumption to sustainable lifestyles)
-Closed circle economy (cradle to cradle, recycling and composting as end uses)
-Decoupling (making the economic system local and sustainable)
The City Council of San Diego has directed City staff to create a plan that reaches the goal of zero waste by 2040. San Diego is making progress towards creating a more cooperative and environmentally-friendly future. Let’s all go this way in 2016.
ZWIA, ZWUSA, CRRA, USZWBC, ZWSD