I saw the future of garbage last week on a visit to San Francisco, which diverts two-thirds of its municipal waste out of landfills and into recycling (paper goes to China) and composting (food waste ends up feeding Napa Valley vineyards). The city’s goal is “zero waste,” and that’s the topic of today’s CNNMoney column.
Two very impressive people are driving the move towards “zero waste” in San Francisco–Mike Sangiacomo runs the city’s waste contractor, an employee-owned company called Norcal Waste Systems, and Jared Blumenfeld is the city’s environment director. (Their green cart, below, is used for food and yard waste that turns into valuable compost.) They are fighting a tough battle against a throwaway culture that generates ever more garbage each year. Since 1960, America’s municipal waste stream has nearly tripled, Elizabeth Royte writes in her surprisingly entertaining book, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. That’s an average 4.5 pounds of garbage per person per day, according to EPA. (Skewed a bit, perhaps, when people throw out heavy furniture or old TV sets.) It’s way past time to reverse that trend.
Here’s how the column begins:
Wal-Mart and the city of San Francisco do not have much in common, but there is this–both are working to achieve zero waste.
They aren’t alone. The Australian territory of Canberra, a third of local governments in New Zealand, the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, a bunch of small towns in California and Carrboro, N.C. (“Paris of the Piedmont”) have all embrace a goal of zero waste.
But what is zero waste? It’s just what it sounds like–the idea that we can design, produce, consume and recycle products without throwing anything away.
You can read the rest here.