Richard Anthony

Recycling Liberal

Zero waste seen on the horizon

By Joe Truini


Zero waste will become a reality, if not by choice then by the force of nature
The population of the world is increasing. Its natural resources are decreasing. Its natural resources are decreasing. Possibly in our lifetime, we will consume all the virgin resources from Mother Earth and have to conserve and farm for what we need, repairing and reusing products and recycling resources to sustain life on the planet.
This could well happen within the next 50 years, said Richard Anthony, a founding member of the Grassroots Recycling Network. Right now it will take four planet earths to provide everybody on this planet with the same lifestyle we have here in the United States. The earth's population will reach 10 billion people in the next millennium if population control issues are not settled. Given that scenario, it will take a world planning effort to provide for the needs of life on this planet.
"I question the motives and credibility of anybody who says people won't recycle."
A prophetic end to mankind's reign? Most likely not. It's human nature to reuse material rather than throw it away. In the United States, we are returning to our recycling roots, Anthony said.
"Recycling is, and always has been, the American way for discard management," he said. "It has never really been a part of the American way to bury reusable and recyclable materials."
In the next 20 years, we can have the collection and processing systems online worldwide to reuse, repair and recycle 90 percent of our discards, he said. At that point, the people can use the power of government to ban the making of products that cannot be reused, repaired or recycled. Landfills will be a thing of the past, and in many cases old land will be used for processing materials. Advance disposal fees will cover the cost of recycling, and recycling bins will replace trash cans.
"If recycling containers are as convenient and recognizable as trash containers, the right material will get in them," Anthony said. "I know that people will recycle. After 30 years of observing recycling programs ranging from volunteer drop-off centers to mandatory separation and seeing the increase in the US recycling rate from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent, I question the motives and credibility of anybody who says people won't recycle."
Uncle Sam also will change the way he spends American dollars. The voting public will ask the government to revise the tax law to eliminate government subsidies for virgin materials, which undermines recycling, and to create incentives that reward businesses for using secondary materials, Anthony said. Secondary feedstock will be the basic feedstock for making products.
"None of this is brain surgery," he said. "We're not cloning anything or splitting any atoms. We are going to use the power of the individual to act in a naturally friendly way to separate discards for repair and recycling, with the goal of eliminating the need to bury stuff in the ground or burn it."
Today, we could recycle 80 percent of our waste if we all were on the same page, Anthony said. The GRRN is in the process of building a network of environmental groups to push people and companies toward talking individual and corporate responsibility about what we do with our discards. The consuming public, by their purchasing actions, will complete the recycling revolution, he said.