A Journey From Incineration Toward Zero Waste

As you enter Chester, Pennsylvania, and drive by 10 Highland Ave, chances are you just took a breath of mercury, soot, and lead.  You might have also seen a big smokestack as you drove by, and if you did, you would have seen the country’s largest trash incinerator run by a company called Covanta.  This incinerator sits in a mostly Black neighborhood in which one-third of the residents live under the poverty line.  The location of this incinerator, however, is far from a coincidence.

Forty-five percent of all incinerators in the country are in neighborhoods where people of color are a majority or a higher percentage than the national average. This is a striking example of environmental injustice.

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Baltimore Aspires To ‘Zero Waste’ But Recycles Only A Fraction Of Its Plastic

Baltimore, Maryland — Leaders here aspire to create a city with zero waste. But new research shows that Baltimore has only attained an estimated residential plastic recycling rate of 2.1 percent, far below the national average of about nine percent.

The report, by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a coalition of 800 groups and individuals who advocate for zero waste, found that Baltimore’s plastic recycling rate was the lowest of the five cities surveyed, which included Minneapolis, Minnesota; Long Beach, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan.

“Well, I’m not surprised because plastics recycling has been an abysmal failure despite the millions of dollars spent by the plastics industry trying to get the public to believe that you can actually recycle plastics,” said Judith Enck, a former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the president of Beyond Plastics, an organization that seeks to end plastics pollution.

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When Communities Reject The Throwaway Economy

Here’s how a growing number of communities across Europe are speeding up the shift to more resilient economies and supply chains.

Rethinking the way we create, use, and dispose of our everyday products.

The world’s resources are limited, but we are living as if they weren’t. Our current economic system is based on extracting raw materials from the Earth, creating products with a built-in life span and throwing them away to then buy new ones.

The good news is that more and more communities are fighting back, creating responsible business models to reduce Europe’s dependency on mining.

This is the story of Maakfabriek, a Belgian creative lab and community of upcyclers extracting precious resources from urban waste and giving products a second life.

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Can Cities Go Zero-waste?

In 2003 the small Japanese town of Kamikatsu set an ambitious zero-waste declaration, aiming to be 100% waste-free by 2020. The goal was to produce no trash, meaning everything from food packaging to unwanted clothing to yesterday’s newspaper should be reused, repurposed into new goods, or recycled. Now that 2020 has arrived, we can see the result: In the 17 years since establishing its goal, Kamikatsu transitioned from openly incinerating all its trash to reusing and recycling 80% of its waste.

While the town made incredible progress, it ultimately fell short of its 100% goal. Its main issue? Unrecyclable plastic packaging and mixed materials still end up in the trash.

As one resident explained to the AFP news agency last year, “Our lifestyle depends mainly on plastic. Consumers can reduce plastic waste to a certain extent, but we’ll still have waste if producers keep making plastic products.”

The truth is, some materials simply aren’t recyclable, and only 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled.

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Organizing For Environmental Justice

Young people have been paramount to just about every successful social movement in this country, with the Climate Movement, and the revolt against oil and gas being no exceptions. Regardless, we still see a gap in youth involvement in petrochemical organizing. College students are an especially-untapped resource for the movement against petrochemical expansion and, this summer, I aim to work with these three aforementioned organizations to help mend that.

Though things may have gotten a bit turned around by the current pandemic, this is a profound moment in our history. A line from My Shot in the musical Hamilton, stating “This is not a moment, it’s the movement,” plays frequently in my mind these days, out of recognition and excitement that this time is a moment for our movement, and an opening perhaps, to make lasting systemic change.

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Occupy Sonoma County Holds Climate Change Summit

By Occupy Sonoma County. On July 31, Occupy Sonoma County hosted a gathering of local climate change activists at the Peace & Justice Center in Santa Rosa. Over 70 people, representing 25 different organizations, attended. Climate change activists are working together in Sonoma County. Every group is also involved in educating the public and empowering people to take action.

We ended the evening with a plan to meet again at the Peace & Justice Center on October 30th at 7:00 pm to form action plans and coordinate our efforts.

“It was extremely gratifying to see all the climate change groups taking this important step towards coordinating our efforts. Sonoma County climate change activists have their act together! This dynamic group of experienced activists combined with fresh, new energy from the many youth who attended, gives me hope that we can work together to stop climate change,” said Stefana Morales, Occupy activist.

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Italy To Make Food Waste A Thing Of The Past

By Natasha Geiling for ThinkProgress. Italy, known for its amazing food, is facing a related problem — food waste. According to government estimates, the country currently wastes about five million tons of food every year.

To combat the issue, the Italian government recently passed a new law aimed at making it easier for both retailers and consumers to prevent food waste. The law aims to cut food waste by 1 million tons each year.

Proponents of the law argue it will make it easier for businesses to donate food, as the law relaxes regulations that have kept some restaurants, farmers and retailers from donating their leftover or unsold food. The law will clarify that food can still be donated even if it has passed its sell-by date, and allow farmers to donate unsold food to charities without having to pay extra. It also earmarks 1 million euros to be used by the Italian agricultural ministry to research ways of packaging food that prevent it from spoiling in transit.

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Inside New Mexico’s Off-Grid Community Made from Trash

By Staff of Yes Magazine – This short film directed by Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells for the podcast The Adaptors takes you inside the Earthships of Taos, New Mexico—a community of off-grid homes made from trash. After studying architecture, Earthships creator Michael Reynolds decided he wanted to experiment with different materials. “We build out of trees, but we don’t want to get rid of them,” says Reynolds, explaining how the project began 30 years ago. “We want to get rid of garbage, so why don’t we try to build out of garbage? It started as kind of a contrived effort to recycle, and has ended up the best way I know of to build, regardless of recycling.”

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France: Illegal For Supermarkets To Throw Away Food

FRANCE’S PARLIAMENT VOTED unanimously tonight to ban food waste in big supermarkets – outlawing the destruction of unsold food.

Under the new law, supermarkets will have to prevent food waste and will be forced to donate unsold but edible food to charity, or for use as animal feed or compost.

They will also be able to donate products for energy and fuel purposes, France Info radio reports.

Socialist MP Guillaume Garot, who sponsored the bill, said:

It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.
Under the new law, all large-sized supermarkets will have to sign contracts with a charity group to facilitate food donations.

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New ‘Zero Waste Hierarchy’ Is For Everyone

The Zero Waste Hierarchy describes a progression of policies and strategies to support the Zero Waste system, from highest and best to lowest use of materials. It is designed to be applicable to all audiences, from policy makers to industry and the individual. It aims to provide greater depth for internationally- recognized 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle); to encourage policy, activity and investment at the top of the hierarchy, and to provide guide for those who develop systems or products that move us closer to Zero Waste. It enhances the Zero Waste definition by providing guidance for planning and a way to evaluate proposed solutions.

The Zero Waste Hierarchy 5.0 was adopted by the International Zero Waste Alliance in March 2013, and Zero Waste Canada with an international team of Zero Waste experts drafted the current version 6.0 which was adopted by both ZWIA and Zero Waste Canada in December 2014.

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Newsletter: What Would Zinn Do?

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn who is best known for his “People’s History of the United States” which looks at history from the bottom up, through the lenses of classism, racism and sexism. We remember Zinn for the advice he gave activists a year before his death. When he was asked what should people be doing, he gave advice that is good no matter what the era:

Go where you are not supposed to go;
Say what you are not supposed to say; and
Stay when they tell you to leave.
We are pleased to see people around the world instinctively following the advice that Howard Zinn gave to US activists. The world over we are facing governments corrupted by money and not representing the people. Zinn’s recipe for change – Go, Say and Stay – one we should be consciously following.

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