Waste-Full

As in, our cities and landfills are full of waste. Which is a waste, really. Because it doesn't need to be that way. What if, like Rob Ford's approval ratings, we could bring our waste down to ZERO?

That's right - zero waste. That's no pipe dream (which are also recyclable, btw), and major U.S. cities are getting on board, due in most part to the dedicated, results-focused, and passionate advocacy of national groups, like the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), regional ones like the Toxics Action Center, and local coalitions, including the Don't Waste L.A. campaign.

San Francisco has long had a zero waste policy, but now Oakland wants some of the (zero) action. It passed a resolution this March requiring the City's new recycling contract to meet four specific standards: (1) The City's recycling contractors must provide livable wages and health care for recycling workers; (2-3) the contractor also must provide a separate compost bin and convenient access to bulk-waste pickup to all residents; and (4) the City’s waste contractor must consider sending some of Oakland’s food scraps to a biowaste-to-energy facility where the waste would be used to generate electricity. This follows on the heels of the historic decision by the L.A. City Council to franchise its commercial waste and recycling programs.

Not to be outdone, the East Coast is also stepping up. A coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing waste presented their plan to divert 90% of Boston's waste from landfills by 2040. Boston's recycling rate, along with New York City's, has been disappointingly low for years, hovering around 20%. The increase would be achieved through means similar to other cities' mechanisms, including composting of residential and commercial organic waste, and increasing oversight of the recycling industry. The best part? Implementing these measures would actually save the City of Boston money on tipping fees, to the tune of $56/ton diverted. Not to mention that once you factor in 'external' costs (such as environmental pollution), dumping waste in a landfill is no longer an attractive financial proposition.

Rather, one might say, it becomes rubbish.