Archive for the Environment_national_global Category

Zero Waste and Green Jobs Challenge from the Sierra Club

Posted in Environment_national_global, Incinerator (WTE), World Changing with tags , , on February 2, 2009 by Kai Hagen
Below is a January 20, 2009 News Release from the Zero Waste Committee of the Sierra Club. And below the news release is the related resolution adopted by Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee, entitled “Green Jobs Waste Surcharge: an economic Stimulus for Zero Waste

The release is about two weeks old now, and I haven’t yet heard anything to suggest that the “Green Jobs Waste Surcharge” is currently being considered for inclusion in the Federal Economic Stimulus Package. But, whether it is or not, in this form or another, at this time or later, I think it offers a good illustration (one of many out there for those who are looking) of the sorts of changes on the horizon.

The proposal is intended to stimulate the economy and benefit the environment by enacting a surcharge for all waste disposed of in landfills or incinerators.  The funds collected could then be applied to support reuse, recycling and composting.

It goes without saying that anything remotely along these lines would dramatically affect the long term cost of a 1,500 tons per day mass burn incinerator, such as the one currently being considered for Frederick County – making a bad investment that much worse.

 

 

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News Release                                          

Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee
For Immediate Release                                                 
January 20, 2009                                       

Ann Schneider
650-697-6249
Ann.Schneider@sierraclub.org
www.sierraclub.org/committees/zerowaste/

 

Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee Recommends
Zero Waste and Green Jobs Challenge

As a Recommendation for Federal Economic Stimulus 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 16, 2009) – The Sierra Club national Zero Waste Committee today released an innovative recommendation for the Federal Economic Stimulus Package.  The Committee urges the Federal government to issue a Zero Waste Challenge for communities and businesses to adopt a Zero Waste plan, and undertake specific projects to reach waste reduction goals.  The proposal includes a “Green Jobs Surcharge on Waste Disposal” as a funding mechanism and economic stimulus for Zero Waste. 

 “This Sierra Club Zero Waste and Green Jobs Proposal recognizes Zero Waste as one of the fastest and most cost effective ways that local governments can contribute to reducing climate change,” said Ann Schneider, a leader of the Club’s Zero Waste Committee. “A shift from traditional waste practices to Zero Waste can also be a significant economic stimulus to recharge the American economy.  Recycling materials can create ten times the number of jobs as land filling those materials.” 

Zero Waste focuses on reducing waste and reusing products, then recycling and composting the rest.  A key component of Zero Waste is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

“Many European nations have adopted significant fees on landfills of $20-40/ton to fund recycling programs and reduce greenhouse gases”, said Schneider. “This proposal recommends that the Federal government adopt a national $20-40/ton Green Jobs Waste Surcharge on landfills and incinerators to help fund Zero Waste programs and contribute a new revenue source that would actually help meet the nation’s Climate Change goals at the same time.  This is often referred to as a “sin” tax, much like taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, where the government taxes “bads” to discourage their use at the same time as generating needed revenues.”

“The Green Jobs Surcharge will facilitate the shift to producer responsibility-led, cradle to cradle recycling,” said Bill Sheehan, Vice-Chair of the Zero Waste Committee.  “That will create a lot more jobs in reuse, refurbishment, recycling and composting than in sending those same materials to landfills and incinerators.”

“A surcharge of this amount could generate up to $6.5 billion per year,” said Gary Liss, a member of the Club’s Zero Waste Committee.  “The Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee proposes half of the revenue from the Zero Waste Fee would cover one-time costs of the US Treasury or as the local or state government match for federal economic stimulus projects. The other half of the revenues would be used to support communities and businesses in developing comprehensive Zero Waste programs.”

For more information visit www.sierraclub.org/committees/zerowaste/.  Contact Ann Schneider at 650-697-6249, Ann.Schneider@sierraclub.org; or Gary Liss at 916-652-7850,gary.liss@sierraclub.org.

###


Resolution Adopted by Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee:

Green Jobs Waste Surcharge:
an economic Stimulus for Zero Waste

Many local governments and businesses around the world are recognizing Zero Waste as one of the fastest and most cost effective ways that they can contribute to reducing climate change. The shift from traditional waste practices to Zero Waste can also be part of a broader package of economic stimulus mechanisms to recharge the American economy.

The USEPA acknowledges the link between municipal waste practices and climate change[i] and communities that have adopted a Zero Waste challenge[ii] are leaders in reducing their contribution to climate change. Similarly, businesses that have adopted a Zero Waste challenge[iii] and divert more than 90% of their waste from landfills and incineration have not only achieved environmental benefits but also saved money, reduced their liabilities, and increased their efficiency.[iv]

Sierra Club members can help more communities and businesses throughout the United States realize similar benefits and help restore the American economy by asking the USEPA to expand its Resource Conservation Challenge[v] to include a Zero Waste Challenge.  The new Challenge, issued to both communities and businesses, could be funded with a Green Jobs Waste Surcharge that would act as part of the new administration’s economic stimulus package to build a sustainable economy.

What would the USEPA Zero Waste Challenge do?

For communities, the national Zero Waste Challenge would set a higher bar for waste reduction. The support of the USEPA and the many publications and practical tools on its website would provide a national clearing house to help communities that are ready to aim beyond their current state recycling goals and just need some encouragement to move in that direction.

For businesses, the USEPA can include information about Zero Waste Businesses[vi] as part of its Waste Wise program.[vii] Waste Wise Partners can be encouraged to report waste diversion rates from landfills and incinerators and highlight how they are meeting the goals through Zero Waste Business Principles.[viii]

USEPA and the new Administration could launch this new Zero Waste Challenge by encouraging communities and businesses to take the Challenge by Earth Day 2009.

Funding the Zero Waste Challenge

To link the USEPA Zero Waste Challenge to other important Federal climate change and economic initiatives, the Administration could recommend a national Green Jobs Waste Surcharge as part of its economic stimulus package to build a Green Jobs economy.

In effect, the Green Jobs Surcharge would tax “bads” rather than goods. By raising the cost of wasting, the surcharge would not only create a new pool of funds that could be directed to worthwhile economic activity, but also provide a direct economic incentive to prevent waste.

Many European nations have adopted significant fees on landfills of $20-40/ton to fund recycling programs and reduce greenhouse gases.  Closer to home, in San Jose, California, the combined fees and taxes on landfilling are over $19/ton and that city has one of the highest waste diversion rates in the country.

USEPA could adopt a national $20-40/ton Green Jobs Waste Fee on landfills and incinerators that would be structured as follows:

1.                  The Fee would be levied on all municipal solid wastes and construction and demolition debris disposed of in landfills and incinerators. For the 169 million tons landfilled or incinerated in 2007[ix], this would generate $3.4 to $6.5 billion per year initially.

2.                  The Fee would credit all local fees charged already.  This would level the playing field, and not encourage wastes to be transferred from one state to another. For example, in San Jose if the federal government enacted a $30/ton fee, San Jose landfills would be levied at $30/ton (ZW Fee) – $19/ton (local fees) = $11/ton paid to the federal government. 

3.         Half of the revenue from the Zero Waste Fee would cover one-time costs of the US Treasury or as the local or state government match for federal economic stimulus projects, structured as follows:

a.         The amount of funds allocated could be proportional to the percentage of materials used in construction projects under the economic stimulus package made of reused, recycled or composted materials.

b.         Because these funds will decrease over time as the amount of wastes decreases to landfills, they should be used only for these one-time expenses.

4.         The other half of the revenues from the Fee would support communities and businesses in developing comprehensive Zero Waste programs, including:

a.         Policy: support for the development of Zero Waste resolutions, policies, incentives, plans and ordinances that facilitate the shift from landfills and incinerators at public expense to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and local Green Jobs;

b.         Technical assistance, education and training: certification and training programs, peer matching and consulting assistance, community based social marketing, and engagement of colleges and universities to develop curricula and classes, compile and analyze data and train students to enter the Zero Waste field.

c.         Start up costs: planning, engineering, permitting, siting, land acquisition, equipment and construction for the capitalization of local Zero Waste businesses that create local jobs while reducing climate change, including:

i.          Reuse and repair facilities
ii.         Recycling facilities
iii.        Composting facilities
iv.        Resource Recovery Parks
v.          Anaerobic digestion
vi.         Market development activities for reuse, recycling and composting such as support for planning for and implementation of recycled content legislation for discarded products.

——————

 

[i] http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/waste/calculators/Warm_home.html
[ii] Including: Los Angeles; Seattle; San Francisco; San Jose; Austin, TX; Telluride, CO; Logan County OH and Central Vermont Waste Management District
[iii] Including: Toyota; Hewlett Packard; Pillsbury; Xerox; Ricoh Electronics; Fetzer Vineyard; Mad River Brewing Company; Scoma’s Restaurant (San Francisco) and 2800 businesses in Japan.
[iv] As documented at http://www.grrn.org/zerowaste/business/profiles.php andhttp://www.earthresource.org/zerowaste.html

Night sky a treasure to preserve

Posted in Environment_local_regional, Environment_national_global, Nature with tags on December 29, 2008 by Kai Hagen

Late one night this past week, I was reminded of one of the genuine benefits of living in one of the more remote parts of Frederick County. The night was clear and cold, there was no moon, and the dark sky was filled with stars.

Of course, “remote” and dark are relative terms here. Nothing is so remote and dark in Frederick County that the night sky can compare to the stunning starscape that is a frequent as clear skies in some places – in a diminishing number of places, unfortunately.

With that crisp night fresh in my mind, I’m posting a column I wrote about the subject a few years ago, followed by a few excellent links for those of you who might want to explore the issue a bit more.

———-

Night sky a treasure to preserve
http://2006.kaihagen.com/Kai/columns/030418.html

Frederick News Post
April 18, 2003

by Kai Hagen

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

When Joni Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” 30 years ago, she managed to capture a big idea in a few simple lines.

“They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum.
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em .”

The trees lost served as a poetic metaphor for the destruction of natural places and the loss of natural beauty in our lives. But Mitchell probably never imagined it might apply to something as immutable and beyond our reach as the night sky itself.

Dramatic change can come quickly, even all at once. More often, however, it seems big changes come gradually, a little bit here, a little bit there. So slowly it is almost imperceptible. When that is so, perhaps it would be more accurate to say “that you don’t know what you had when it’s gone.”

So it has been with many things. Changes happen over the years, over decades, over generations. And often, we don’t even know what we are missing.

For many years, Frederick was small enough and far enough from big cities to provide something special – even stunning and inspirational – with only an upward gaze on a clear night. But the Washington and Baltimore areas have gotten bigger and closer and brighter, and Frederick and other towns in the county have gotten bigger and brighter, too.

We are losing – have lost – something people for almost all of time have taken for granted. Other than astronomers – and a few poets – most of us probably haven’t given much thought to light pollution. But, children in Frederick County are well on the way to joining the three-fourths of Americans who grow up without being able to see the Milky Way. The wonders of fireworks and laser light shows, and the glow of television sets and video games, are replacing the natural wonders of a star-filled night sky for children today

We are all-too-familiar with the concept of air pollution or water pollution. And, though we might disagree about some of the particulars, virtually everyone supports efforts to protect our air and water, and ourselves, from those sources of pollution. We’ve also become familiar with the notion of noise pollution. We recognize that noise can be a public nuisance, even a health hazard. We put mufflers on motors. We build sound barriers along highways. We establish noise limits in workplaces and parks and neighborhoods. And so on.

We ought pay attention to the issue of light pollution, too.

Light pollution is the upward and outward distribution of light where it isn’t intended or isn’t needed. Light pollution can be the glare of direct light that makes it hard to see or causes discomfort. Some light pollution can be described as light trespass, which refers to light shining on neighbors when that light is intrusive or objectionable. Sky glow refers to the overall glow that comes from towns, cities, and other developed areas.

It’s not simply a matter of aesthetics and star-gazing, either. A growing body of scientific research is revealing that light pollution, or the lack of darkness, is associated with a wide range of other significant problems affecting natural systems and human health, too many to describe here.

But there’s good news about light pollution.

Because light pollution is really a symptom of waste, most of the solutions to the problem make good sense for many reasons. It’s a win-win situation. Perhaps as much as a third of all the light we produce is complete waste. We are paying to shine lights we want where it doesn’t serve our purposes. In addition to reducing light pollution, using more efficient lighting reduces energy consumption. That reduces the direct cost of lighting, as well as the consumption of other resources, like coal and oil, and the generation of all the air and water pollution that comes with it.

Separately, it might be a good idea to ask how much of the light we use is really necessary, even when we produce and use it efficiently. For example, do we need bright security lights on all night where motion-sensitive lights will do? Do we really need to illuminate gas stations and convenience stores at levels that are 3 to 10 times the levels recommended by Illuminating Engineering Society of North America?

We are fortunate that light pollution is a lot different from PCB pollution in our rivers or CFC pollution in the upper atmosphere. When we use lights more efficiently, or turn them off altogether, the light pollution ends. There is nothing left to clean up.

Even if and when we change all the activities and reduce the pollution that has diminished the Chesapeake Bay, it will take generations to restore something resembling what was once there.

But the starry sky is still there, unchanged. We just can’t see it.

So, when you are fortunate enough to be in a place where it is still dark enough to see the entire sky shimmering with stars, think how much less beauty there would be in Frederick County without it.

usa_at_night_web

A Google search on “light pollution” will provide a long list of links. Here are three:

International Dark-Sky Association
http://www.darksky.org/

SkyandTelescope.com – Saving Dark Skies
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/resources/darksky
including a short piece about Jennifer Barlow, a “Dark-sky Devotee” who, as a high-school student in Virginia, decided to do something about light pollution:
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/resources/darksky/3307451.html

In November, the National Geographic magazine published an article entitled: “Our Vanishing Night”
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/light-pollution/klinkenborg-text
…which included a nice photo gallery:
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/light-pollution/richardson-photography

“Of all the pollutions we face, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied.”
– Verlyn Klinkenborg,

TRANSITION TO GREEN

Posted in Environment_national_global with tags , , , on December 18, 2008 by Kai Hagen

Last month, a broad coalition of twenty-nine major national environmental, science and conservation groups  prepared an environmental “road map,” entitled “TRANSITION TO GREEN,” which was submitted to the Obama transition team for consideration, with recommendations for achieving a range of important goals. The recommendations are intended to “help channel American ingenuity into solving the economic, climate and environmental crises we now face.”

Read more about the coalition and its recommendations in this article from Grist:

 

Transition to Green

Transition to Green

 

To download the 2.2mb pdf file, click the image above or click here.

The file can be downloaded from a number of places, including from this page on CHANGE.GOV, the transition website for the Office of the President-Elect, where it is described this way:

These recommendations, respectfully submitted to the transition team for its consideration, were compiled by a broad coalition of leading national environmental and conservation groups.”

Go here (to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s media center) to read the official Press Release (November 25, 2008) 

The document is not short. But it’s well organized, has a relatively short Executive Summary, and it’s easy to review highlights or find the issues and recommendations of greatest interest to you.