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.
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.”
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.
[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
[vi] As documented at http://www.grrn.org/zerowaste/business/profiles.php and
[vii] See http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/wastewise/index.htm
[viii] See http://www.grrn.org/zerowaste/business/
[ix] See http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw07-fs.pdf, page 2.