What does a sustainable, Zero Waste City need?
Policies for Resource Recovery
Our policies and tax dollar subsidies favor waste and pollution by making it cheap and easy for both manufacturers and consumers to dig up natural resources, use ‘em up and toss ‘em out. But with growing populations and limited resources, that must change. Zero Waste policies shift the default from wasting to natural resource conservation and protect the rights of future generations to a healthy planet that can sustain them.
The Gray Zone in Our Green Future
We have lots of rules in our society to protect the common good. Shouldn’t protecting resources for this and future generations be one of them?
“Everyone has the same goal of making the stuff (trash) go away.”
‒Boulder City Council member in a council study session about the Boulder Zero Waste Master Plan
I heard this statement and thought, “No, we don’t all have that goal. In fact, making it 'go away' is the wrong strategy to solve the wrong problem statement."
The real problem is that this stuff we call “waste” is actually small pieces of our precious earth—aluminum cans were once minerals, paper was once trees, plastic was once oil and so on—and we’re destroying all of that when we bury or burn these resources at a time when we desperately need to conserve them.
So instead of making waste disappear, we need to embrace it as the resource it is.
With our rapidly growing population, these are the resources future generations will need if they are to survive peacefully on the only planet we have. We need to get serious about conserving the future’s resources, and to do that we need to move from voluntary action to mandatory participation.
It's time to look at community benefit and make sorting the law.
If conserving our resources becomes the goal, rather than making them go away, we’ll need a different strategy to get there.
For more than 35 years Eco-Cycle has been preaching, teaching and encouraging our enlightened community of Boulder County to aggressively pursue resource conservation on a voluntary basis. Together, we've done well, but alas, even the City of Boulder has still only achieved a 50% community recycling rate while other US communities are reaching rates of 60%, 70% and higher.
Those communities have achieved these rates by making sorting our discards the law. Is it our turn to do the same? We think so.
“But I don’t like using the force of law to force people to make good decisions.”
‒Longmont City Council member, commenting on some recommendations in the new Boulder County Zero Waste Action Plan
This is the gray zone in the green future, isn’t it? None of us wants to be forced to do anything, but think about it for a moment: Did you slow down in the school zone driving to work this morning, while you were wearing your seatbelt?
There are thousands of laws out there that we don’t think twice about obeying because we understand sometimes community good outranks our personal freedoms. Our world is a better place thanks to the “rule of law” in society—that’s the foundation of civilization. Now it is time the common good of future generations is also considered through some new rules related to the trashing of our planet.
Three New Policies for a Zero Waste City:
Other progressive communities reaching recycling rates well above 50% have several policies in common such as:
• A requirement to recycle in the commercial sector
• Bans and fees on non-recyclable, non-compostable materials for which there are better alternatives
• High fees and taxes on mixed waste that has not been sorted for recycling or composting.
Next article —
City of Boulder's Proposed New Zero Waste Policy: A Fee On Single-Use Bags
© 2012 Eco-Cycle, Inc. All Rights Reserved No content published by Eco-Cycle may be copied or printed for any use without the expressed written consent of Eco-Cycle. Want to reprint or redistribute our content? Please contact us.