Can you imagine a world of zero waste–where everything we no longer wanted or needed could become food for something else? My FORTUNE magazine story about that idea, called “The End of Garbage,” appears in the March 19 issue, with some terrific pictures. (Worth getting the issue for!) The story was also posted at the cnnmoney website this morning.
Writing this story got me thinking more than ever before about how waste-full we are as a society, as well as about my own waste. I learned that for recycling to work as a business, we all need to recycle as much as we can and buy recycled product when possible; like all businesses, recycling depends on steady supply and demand to be profitable and sustainable. Recycling’s a great way to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases because making new paper, plastic, aluminum or steel takes a lot more energy than making those things from recycled stock. (I visited a paper factory that uses 95% recycled input in Muskogee, OK, while reporting this story. Very cool!) The National Recycling Coalition does great work on this issue.
Here’s how the story begins:
“Garbage,” says the character played by Andie MacDowell in Sex, Lies, and Videotape. “All I’ve been thinking about all week is garbage. We’ve got so much of it, you know? I mean, we have to run out of places to put this stuff eventually.”
In 1989, America had garbage on its mind. A barge called the Mobro had carried 3,000 tons of unwanted trash up and down the East Coast. California told its cities to recycle 50% of their garbage by 2000 or face steep fines. The national recycling rate was only 16%.
Today San Francisco has a recycling rate of 68%, the best of any American city, and it intends to do better. Much better. San Francisco and Wal-Mart do not have much in common, but there is this: Both have a goal of achieving zero waste.
You can read the rest here. Below is John Casella, a Vermonter who runs Casella Waste, one of the more forward-thinking companies in the trash biz.