More on zero waste

June 16, 2008

Healthy Environment

There was an article in this weekend’s Saturday Globe and Mail by John Barber on the subject of zero waste.  The Ontario Zero Waste Coalition was launched at a Niagara Falls conference last week.  Guy Crittenden, editor of Solid Waste magazine was quoted in the article as saying “(W)hy on earth should municipalities pay for industry’s crap”, which is another way of saying why should municipal taxpayers pay for “industry’s crap”. Zero waste is about who pays and preventing waste in the first place.  The concept places the responsibility for waste on industry to manage – from cradle to grave.

There are some great examples of industry showing leadership in managing their waste – just not enough.  For example, Interface is the largest manufacturer of commerical carpet tiles in the world.   Essentially you lease carpet tiles from them.  When you need a carpet change, you return the old one to the company.  Have you ever taken an old carpet to a landfill and wondered how long it would take to break down? 

With the exception of a few who want to burn all our garbage, most people who write to me about waste issues want us to do more to reduce waste generation and disposal, not less.  They challenge the assertion that we are a green community when we have no program to promote recycling in apartment buildings – that will change. They are frustrated that our organic facility is still not open – that will also change.  They are confused about the ongoing misinformation being spread in our community that our blue bags are going to landfill – one more time this is not true.

Twenty years ago, we were a leader in waste management.  Today, we are scrambling to catch up to the status quo.  Our community’s values are reflected in your new City Council’s priorities for this term – both reopening the organics facility and updating our waste management master plan are at the top of the list. 

Zero waste offers the next phase in waste management thinking. As Barber writes in his column: “(B)y focussing on policy and economics instead – banning throwaways and making producers pay for their own waste – zero waste makes landfills and incinerators essentially unnecessary. As a pipe dream, this one is hot as can be”.




About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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One Comment on “More on zero waste”

  1. Kyle Mackie Says:

    I applaud the ideas behind zero waste and zero footprint initiatives. In many ways, it gives people, businesses and industry real-life, measurable goals to achieve. I’m heartened by the fact that institutions and municipalities are joining in on the initiatives. I wonder though, if the initiatives are a bit short-sighted and even negative in their goals. Surely we can do better than “zero”.

    We need to try to have a positive impact on the earth, rather than a “less-negative” one. The culture of self-sacrifice and regulation that these initiatives promote has it’s place, but where is the inspiration to do things better from the ground up?

    Striving for “zero” (and incidently likely never reaching it) means that we’re working within existing structures to drain our resources less quickly and poison our earth more slowly. William McDonough & Michael Braungart’s 2002 book “Cradle to Cradle” does a great job of looking at this issue. As a race, we have to take positive action to do more than slow environmental degradation, and more than use more recycled products. We need to create a new way of thinking, living and creating. We need to make our environment better and healthier.

    To borrow an idea from the book, we need to be eco-effective, not just eco-efficient. I’m confident that the great minds in Guelph (city staff, UofG faculty staff and students, and the citizenry at large) could come up with some more creative, positive solutions.

    We need to figure out how can make the earth better, not just how we can do things “less bad”.

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