Behind the scenes: A Reuse Advocate’s role in Zero Waste policy

By MaryEllen Etienne

Reuse is well known as the “second R” in the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra used by environmental leaders across the globe. Perhaps the term conjures up that reusable bag sitting in your car trunk – but reuse is much more than this. It is a complex and critical component of true Zero Waste.

Espousing the benefits of reuse
It is clear that source reduction and recycling will only get us so far. We can’t achieve Zero Waste without reuse.

We don’t have to look much further than Toyota to see the vital ‘part’ reuse plays in corporate Zero Waste efforts. In the late 1990’s Toyota began replacing cardboard gaylords and wooden pallets with durable, reusable shipping containers to ship parts to dealerships. In the early 2000’s they began using these containers to ship parts from Japan to North America, then to distribution centers. Currently more than 65,000 reusable shipping containers carry 109 million parts annually through a network of 1850 dealers, 150 suppliers and 22 distribution centers. Toyota’s reuse efforts have saved 308 million pounds of wood, 185 millions pounds of cardboard and 445 million dollars in packaging costs since 2002.

In the nonprofit world, we can look to the Scrap Exchange to see how reuse is promoting creativity, environmental awareness and community development. Scrap Exchange is a national model creative reuse center in Durham, North Carolina. By collecting materials from local businesses and residents and selling reclaimed materials – the organization has created 32 jobs and diverts nearly 150 tons annually. With the recent purchase of over 105,000 square feet of commercial space they are poised to create the country’s first “Reuse Arts District” and national center to support reuse initiatives.

All this great work aside, it is important to note that reuse continues to be overshadowed by the “third R”, recycling. This is where reuse advocates come into play.

Making a timely connection
In April 2016, as a new member of American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) I started to get acquainted with the organization and its work. I had the great fortune to speak with Richard Eidlin, ASBC’s Vice President of Policy about my passion for reuse, its vital role in the broader concept of Zero Waste, and how it all factors into a circular economy. Just a few weeks later, he was approached by Maria Laverdiere, legislative aide to Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) to get feedback on their Zero Waste Bill. Richard immediately put me in touch with her.

Getting it right
My work with Maria and Richard began in earnest as I put a critical eye to Ellison’s existing Zero Waste Bill. On first read I noticed it prominently displayed the National Recycling Coalition’s (NRC) newly adopted definition of “recycling” – which, as a NRC Board Member, was wonderful to see and had resulted from Maria’s work with NRC’s Policy Committee in 2015. Upon further review, I noticed that the Bill’s language seemed to overlook reuse. Throughout the document it either skipped directly from waste reduction straight to recycling (missing the “second R”) or referred to a small segment of reuse by occasionally mentioning “product reuse”.

Overlooking reuse is not uncommon, however. I see it everywhere – from municipal waste management plans to corporate Zero Waste programs. It’s easy to confuse reuse with recycling and/or to underestimate its triple bottom line impacts, but I’m hoping that my fellow reuse advocates will educate policy makers and industry leaders, and hold them accountable for including, and even more importantly prioritizing, reuse in their Zero Waste goals and policies.

The other key elements I felt were missing in the legislation were definitions of waste prevention, reuse and Zero Waste. After walking Maria through my suggested edits and describing in more detail the role of reuse in Zero Waste and the circular economy, I began to mark-up the document.

I made the seemingly small but important revisions ensuring reuse was not skipped – and would take its proper place between waste reduction and recycling. Then, to complement the NRC’s definition of recycling, I added my oft-used definition of “reuse” – extending the life of a product, packaging, or resource by either using it more than once for the same or a new function with little to no processing, or repairing it so it can be used longer’. I then crafted a definition of “waste prevention” based on EPA’s use of term. Lastly, I added the peer-reviewed definition of “Zero Waste” which was developed by the Zero Waste International Alliance. Thankfully, these changes were embraced by Ellison’s staff.

In the meantime, I worked with ASBC to organize a Capitol Hill briefing on Zero Waste that was held on November 16, 2016. Congressman Ellison presented the updated document to policy-makers and leaders in the corporate and nonprofit community. The updates were well received and Maria set forth to incorporate the edits and feedback into a finalized document.

Answering the call to action
On January 26, 2017, Maria distributed an email stating Congressman Ellison’s intention to reintroduce the updated Bill known as “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017” in the 115th Congress (H.R. 1034) on February 14, 2017. She also encouraged me, ASBC and others involved in the original Bill to show our support once again.

Now it is time to advocate for reuse and Zero Waste. I wholeheartedly agree with Maria’s sentiment and hope to elicit support for this potentially game-changing piece of legislation among my peers.

Let’s prove that eliminating wasteful practices and supporting more reuse and recycling will contribute to increasing jobs and helping those who need affordable food, furniture, clothing and other goods and conserving our resources. Let’s actively support building a viable reuse infrastructure and bring home the manufacturing jobs in recycling in an effort to rebuild infrastructure in America. Let’s also underscore that the reuse and recycling industry is as large as the automobile industry, and a little investment and supportive tax policies would pay off significantly to making America great again.

MaryEllen Etienne has been working in the field of sustainable materials management for over 20 years, with an expertise in reuse. She is the creator and executive producer of ReuseConex and is the author of “The Reuse Primer” and “The Reuse Movement Toolkit”. She can be contacted at maryellen@maryellenetienne.com

View the PDF version

The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) supports and endorses the “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017”

February 14, 2017

View the Letter of Support Here

Free Webinar: Next Steps on the Road to Zero Wasting in California

Bob Gedert Voted to AOR Board

View the original press release from Resource Recycling Systems

January 31, 2017, Ann Arbor, Mich.  – Sustainability and recycling consultancy RRS, announced today affiliate senior consultant Bob Gedert has been voted to the Association of Ohio Recyclers (AOR) member-at-large board of directors position.

Mr. Gedert recently moved back to Ohio and joined RRS to work with municipalities and organizations in the public sector to advance recycling and composting efforts and move toward zero waste goals.

Previous to RRS, Mr. Gedert served as the Austin Resource Recovery department director leading services including recycling, solid waste collection, household hazardous waste, and yard waste. His previous experience in Ohio included solid waste district director for Auglaize County, recycling director for Highland County, and operations manager for the Cincinnati Experience. He also has public sector recovery experience with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Fresno, Calif.

As an AOR Board member, Mr. Gedert is responsible for actively supporting the AOR Mission to promote and advance waste reduction, reuse and recycling through statewide leadership, communication, research, education and networking opportunities.

“I am excited to returning to Ohio and working with recyclers throughout the state” stated Mr. Gedert. “It is through organizations like the Association of Ohio Recyclers that recycling and composting collection knowledge can be shared and a positive impact made on our local environment.”

AOR is a non-profit organization with a focus on advancing waste reduction, reuse and recycling. More information can be found at www.ohiorecycles.org.

Resource Recycling Conference and National Recycling Coalition join forces to propel industry

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2017

Contact:
Jerry Powell, jpowell@resource-recycling.com, 503-233-1305
Marjorie Griek, marjie@nrcrecycles.org, 303-975-6975

Resource Recycling Conference and National Recycling Coalition join forces to propel industry

Leading conference and trade group announce a strategic partnership aimed at pushing forward the evolution of municipal materials recovery in North America. The partnership kicks off with the seventh-annual Resource Recycling Conference in Minneapolis this August.

(Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.) — The largest national conference focusing on municipal recycling will now be aided by a key alliance. The seventh-annual Resource Recycling Conference, to be held in late August in Minneapolis, will be conducted in partnership with the National Recycling Coalition (NRC).

As part of the collaboration, NRC leadership will assist in developing some sections of the Resource Recycling Conference agenda of educational sessions. The group will also hold its annual meeting, board elections and recycling awards ceremony in conjunction with the conference.

These steps will help the Resource Recycling Conference continue to bolster its proven ability to facilitate knowledge-sharing, networking and connectivity in the evolving realm of municipal recycling.

The 2017 Resource Recycling Conference (rrconference.com) is slated for Aug. 28-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and will include involvement from the Recycling Association of Minnesota. The conference, which is produced by independent trade journal publisher Resource Recycling Inc., is entering its seventh year. It is the only national conference focused exclusively on municipal recycling.

The NRC is a nonprofit organization with more than 6,000 members that is focused on promoting and enhancing recycling in the United States.

“Successful recycling programs don’t just happen magically,” said Jerry Powell, president of Resource Recycling Inc. and the Resource Recycling Conference. “The companies and communities that thrive in this industry do so because they have extensively researched the market, collaborated with other forward-thinking enterprises and efficiently implemented their strategies. With the help of the NRC, our conference will continue to serve as the municipal recycling sector’s networking and educational hub.”

The partnership will help attendees of the Resource Recycling Conference fully understand the issues shaping the industry right now and return to their communities and businesses with the knowledge and tools needed to lift their operations.

Among the topics expected to be covered at the 2017 conference are the role of recycling in the larger circular economy, best practices to increase diversion in communities of all sizes, and tactics for combating issues such as materials contamination.

The partnership will bring benefits to the entire industry, said NRC President Bob Gedert.

“NRC welcomes the opportunity to showcase resources that can help state and local programs expand markets for recovered materials to strengthen local markets,” said Gedert, who is a senior consultant at RRS and the former solid waste director at the City of Austin, Texas. “NRC also hopes to engage its members to support policies nationally that could help local programs grow and prosper. By combining the skills and knowledge of the NRC and the Resource Recycling Conference, we can offer tools and trends analysis that will open pathways to a more resilient industry in the long run.”

About the Resource Recycling Conference
Produced by Portland, Ore.-based Resource Recycling Inc., the annual Resource Recycling Conference brings together leading municipal recycling decision-makers to evolve North American materials recovery. The 2017 conference will be the seventh iteration of the event and is scheduled for August 28-30 in Minneapolis, Minn. For more information, visit www.rrconference.com.

About the National Recycling Coalition
The National Recycling Coalition is a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and enhancing recycling in the United States. Its network of more than 6,000 members extends across waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting. The mission of the group is to partner with and facilitate activities between and among nonprofit organizations, businesses, trade associations, individuals and government to maintain a prosperous and productive American recycling system that is committed to the conservation of natural resources. Together, We Are Recycling. For more information, visit www.nrcrecycles.org.

Sustainable Materials Management (SMM)

Reference the following SMM resources and interesting reads below:

  1. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report, US Environmental Protection Agency
    This report has been “compiled through a cooperative agreement with the National Recycling Coalition, the study confirmed what many have known for decades: there are significant economic benefits in recycling.” – 2016 REI EPA Report
  2. Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures, US Environmental Protection Agency
  3. Recycling benefits highlighted in Capitol Hill, Resource Recycling

National Recycling Coalition Announces 2016-2017 Officers

For Immediate Release: November 16, 2016

Washington DC – The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) has voted on new officers for the 2016-2017 year.

Elections for officers were held during the Fall Board meeting on November 9, 2016 in Atlanta, GA. The new officers, listed below, will serve for the next year:

  • President: Bob Gedert, Department Director, Austin Resource Recovery, City of Austin
  • Chair of the Board: David Juri Freeman, Senior Consultant, Resource Recycling Systems
  • Executive Vice President/CEO: Marjorie Griek, Principal Consultant, Pearl Consulting
  • Additional Vice Presidents: Stephen Bantillo, Executive Director, Recycling Certification Institute; Gary Bilbro, Owner and President, SMART Recycling U.S., Inc.; Paul England, Midwest Regions General Manager, Pratt Industries; Gary Liss, President, Gary Liss & Associates
  • Secretary: Lisa A. Skumatz, Principal Consultant/Research, Skumatz Economic Research Associates, and non-profit Econservation Institute
  • Treasurer: Marjorie Griek, Principal Consultant, Pearl Consulting
  • At-large Executive Committee Members: Nominations will occur at our winter Board meeting on December 9, 2016

The officers were nominated from the current NRC Board, members listed below:

  • Susan Attridge, Recycling Coordinator, City of Buffalo, New York
  • Stephen Bantillo, Executive Director, Recycling Certification Institute
  • Gary Bilbro, President, SMART Recycling of SC
  • Robert J. Bylone, Jr., Executive Director and President, Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center
  • Maggie Clarke, Zero Waste Consultant, Zero Waste New York
  • Jack DeBell, Development Director, University of Colorado Recycling
  • George Dreckmann, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, City of Madison, WI Streets Division
  • Paul England, Recycling Manager, Pratt Recycling
  • MaryEllen Etienne, Programs Manager, Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio
  • John Frederick, Executive Director, Intermunicipal Relations Committee
  • David Juri Freeman, Recycling Program Manager, City and County of Denver
  • Bob Gedert, Department Director, Austin Resource Recovery, City of Austin
  • Marjorie Griek, Principal Consultant, Pearl Consulting
  • Carey Hamilton, Executive Director, Indiana Recycling Coalition
  • Brent Hildebrand, VP Operations, Alpine Recycling and Waste
  • Doug Hill, President, EcoVision Environmental
  • Dave Keeling, Director of Recycling, Steel Recycling Institute
  • Gary Liss, Zero-Waste Consultant, Gary Liss & Associates
  • Maite Quinn, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Sims Municipal RecyclingAntonio Rios, President, Puerto Rico Recycling Coalition
  • Will Sagar, Executive Director, Southeast Recycling Development Center
  • Lisa A. Skumatz, Principal Consultant/Research, Skumatz Economic Research Associates, and non-profit Econservation Institute
  • Michael Van Brunt, Director of Sustainability, Covanta
  • Robin Wiener, President, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries
  • Melissa Young, Assistant Director, Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions

President Bob Gedert noted “The NRC Board of Directors represent strong leadership experience from recycling organizations, non-profit organizations, businesses, trade associations, individuals, local, state and federal government, unified in the mission to support a local recycling programs that are committed to the conservation of natural resources. I stand ready to support this mission through inclusion of all partners within the American recycling system. Together, We Are Recycling.

The National Recycling Coalition is a non-profit organization focused on promoting and enhancing recycling in the United States. Our network of more than 6,000 members extends across waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting.

For more information contact NRC Staff Assistant, Savannah Betkowski at Savannah@NRCrecycles.org

Join us for a special event led by the NRC

smm-dialog-workshopHave you ever wondered how Sustainable Materials Management and the Circular Economy are relevant to recyclers?
Attend the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Dialog for you to do just that. We have an expert line-up of presenters, followed by a discussion among attendees about how to take these principles and turn them into action.
 Speakers: 
  • Gary Liss, Co-Chair, NRC SMM Committee highlighting NRC SMM Strategy and Moderator
  • Cheryl Coleman, USEPA addressing what is SMM and Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs)
  • Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing Co. as a model SMM Business leader addressing what they are doing on sustainability in general, SMM, LCAs, Resource Management, Resource Efficiency, Circular Economy and Zero Waste
  • Gloria Hardagree, Georgia Recycling Coalition on Recyclers+ (reuse, recycling, composting and related professionals) at the table with manufacturers and product designers to redesign products and packaging.
The Workshop will be held during the Southeast Recycling Development Council’s annual summit on November 7, 2016. Please sign up for this session here. You do not have to be attending the full conference to participate, but if you plan to attend the full conference, you must register for both events.

Date
: Monday, November 7, 2016
Time: 10:00am-12:00pm ET
Cost: Free to NRC Members; Others $25.00.
Please note: All members of state recycling organizations affiliated with the NRC are automatically members of NRC. Click here for a list of state affiliate
Member Code: NRCmember
Location: 225 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA. 30303 USA

REGISTER HERE


For more information on the SERDC Summit and other events taking place, click here.

The NRC will also be holding a Board meeting in conjunction with the SERDC summit on 11/9/16. If you are in the Southeast region, please plan to join us.

If you would like organize an event like this in your area, please let us know. Contact NRC’s Staff Assistant for more information at savannah@NRCrecycles.org.

Murray J. Fox, The “Johnny Appleseed” of U.S. Recycling

About the Author:  Neil Seldman, Ph.D., co-founded the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and serves as Senior Staff of the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and counties recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy  through new processing and manufacturing facilities.  Neil also serves on ILSR’s Board of Directors.


In my career of five decades of working in the recycling field for ILSR there is only one person I consider a true “Johnny Appleseed of Recycling” in the U.S.  His name is Murray J. Fox and he remains a sage of recycling, whose own history provides insight into today’s policies and issues. He never failed to teach others about the configuration of the equipment, the technologies to be employed and the problems to be solved.  In the 1970s, Fox provided guided tours to beginning community recyclers of his ingeniously designed beneficiation plants with modern equipment and expandable walls along concrete pads.  These were the people  who subsequently became national leaders in the emerging U.S. recycling movement.

Fox first became aware of how much glass was being wasted in his aluminum storm window business, and then, due to new regulations for safety glass, he entered into a joint venture to build a glass tempering plant in Webster, Massachusetts. His curiosity brought him to Belgium…

Click Here to continue reading.

America Recycles Day – How Can YOU Get Involved?

America Recycles Day (ARD) has been the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States since 1997. Every year on and around Nov. 15, thousands of local event organizers mobilize throughout their community to educate millions of people about recycling within their communities.

One of the biggest barriers to recycling is knowing what items can (can cannot) be recycled. This year, the National Recycling Coalition is working with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) to promote and spread awareness of what can be recycled, and how to recycle it correctly, in celebration of America Recycles Day. We invite you to plan your own ARD event by taking advantage of the wide variety of tools and resources KAB offers to make event planning easy and successful. Once planned, register your event here – this allows your event to become part of the national network of America Recycles Day events!

“America Recycles Day provides the encouragement and ‘know how’ to make recycling a common practice every day of the year,” said Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, Keep America Beautiful. “We invite you to host an event in your community – invite your family and friends from work, school, your neighbor to participate in America Recycles Day and to take the #BeRecycled Pledge in a collective national effort to improve recycling in our country.”

Events can be scheduled at any time during the fall leading into the official America Recycles Day celebration on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Additionally, as part of our campaign, we encourage you to ask your networks how they live a recycled lifestyle by taking the #BeRecycled Pledge, which is a promise to actively choose to live a recycled lifestyle by committing to “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” in all aspects of daily life. This includes:

  • Recycling at home, work/school and on-the-go;
  • Buying products made with recycled content; and
  • Educating and encouraging friends, family and neighbors to take the #BeRecycled Pledge

Learn more about America Recycles Day http://www.AmericaRecyclesDay.org. For questions, contact Tyler Orton at 202-688-0604 or torton@kab.org.