Zero-Waste Going Mainstream?

The New York Times examines a handful of places in the US embracing zero-waste policies, how they're doing it, and what challenges lie ahead.

"Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day, according to the E.P.A.'s most recent figures. More than half of that ends up in landfills or is incinerated.

But places like the island resort community of Nantucket offer a glimpse of the future. Running out of landfill space and worried about the cost of shipping trash 30 miles to the mainland, it moved to a strict trash policy more than a decade ago, said Jeffrey Willett, director of public works on the island.

Jim Lentowski, executive director of the nonprofit Nantucket Conservation Foundation and a year-round resident since 1971, said that sorting trash and delivering it to the local recycling and disposal complex had become a matter of course for most residents."

Full Story: Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None



Reduce, reuse...then recycle

The zero-waste movement seems to be too focused on recycling waste rather than reducing it and reusing it. There is a need to shift the emphasis to waste reduction.

The famous Earth Day slogan "reduce, reuse, recycle" was coined with those actions considered in order of importance. Reducing waste being the first most important, reusing it second, recycling it third.

Recycling facility owners will attest to the amount of waste created and energy used in the recycling process. For example, did you know that aluminum cans have to be de-lacquered with chemicals before the aluminum can be recycled? Have you considered the emissions resulting from melting down plastic containers?

Our priority needs to be on demanding durability in manufacturing.

Products should be built to last a lifetime- not lasting only five minutes, five months, five uses or five years. Environmental organizations need to emphasize this priority in their policy advocacy.

People can also make smarter choices- using a canvas bag for your groceries instead of using and recycling plastic ones,choosing to buy beverages sold as concentrates instead of individual packages like soda cans or juice boxes, drinking plain old tap water instead of bottled water.

Look inside your weekly recycle bins and think about how many of those products you could healthfully and happily live without.

Then let your legislators know that reducing waste by making products durable is important to you.

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