What is Zero Waste?

Written by Gary Liss

Over the past five years or so, leading solid waste and recycling organizations, communities and businesses across the country have increasingly embraced Zero Waste. Zero Waste policies and programs establish practical ways to eliminate waste and safely reuse, recycle or compost discarded products and packaging. However, there has been confusion in the marketplace due to the many definitions of “zero” that are being used.

To address this confusion for its members and others, NRC identified the need to evaluate and come to consensus on a definition for Zero Waste. Earlier this year, the NRC Board adopted the definition developed by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). It reads as follows:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

The key measure of performance toward ZWIA’s Zero Waste definition is diverting 90 percent of all discarded materials from landfills, incinerators and the environment. While it’s true that 90 percent diversion does not equate to zero landfilling, the goal is viewed – both by ZWIA and NRC – as the most reasonable and yet ambitious target the industry should be aiming for. When referring to the zero waste definition, ZWIA encourages that to be capitalized, as is commonly done in contracts and other legal documents when referring to a defined term.

One compelling reason for NRC to adopt the ZWIA definition of Zero Waste is that it is the only peer-reviewed definition in existence today. It’s also been accepted by environmental, recycling and Zero Waste leaders all around the world. To date, many organizations, businesses and communities have adopted and support the ZWIA definition. It has also been embraced by many members of NRC.

Another facet of the zero waste definition that NRC finds especially useful is that it does not count waste-to-energy as diversion. While some companies and groups have endorsed a “zero landfill” practice, it is important to ensure that diverted material is not headed for incineration either.

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has acknowledged that it has members that support waste-to-energy while others support Zero Waste. SWANA wants to support both of those groups of members, so it has agreed to not view waste-to-energy as part of Zero Waste.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution “In Support of Municipal Zero Waste Principles and a Hierarchy of Materials Management” last year that also highlighted that waste-based energy should be counted as disposal, not diversion.

NRC hopes that adopting ZWIA’s clear-sighted definition will help its members and the industry to continue to strive for the highest waste diversion and recycling goals and encourage them to divert as much as possible. NRC joins other organizations like the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and Zero Waste USA, and many businesses and communities who have also adopted this definition. NRC encourages others to adopt this definition as well.

Please email me at gary@garyliss.com if you know of any business, government agency or organization that adopts it.

Gary Liss is a current board member and secretary of the National Recycling Coalition. He was also a founding Board member and past president of NRC and is the president of Gary Liss & Associates.

This article was reprinted from NRC’s OpEd in the Resource Recycling Magazine on May 17, 2016.

2016 NRC Board Nominations are Open!

The 2016 NRC Board Nominations are open! Nominate yourself or someone else who is passionate about improving recycling for the National Recycling Coalition’s Board of Directors!

To run for the Board, you must be age 18 or over and have been an NRC member in good standing for a minimum of one (1) year.

Electronic nominations close on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 1:00pm ET/12:00pm CT/11:00am MT/10:00am PT and will reopen from the floor of the NRC Annual Members Meeting on Tuesday, August 30th at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside in New Orleans, LA.

Container Recycling Institute (CRI) will be hosting a Webinar that features two NRC Board Members

The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) will be hosting a webinar entitled the “Definition of Recycling” on July 27, 2016. This webinar will feature two NRC Board Members, Fran MacPoland and Stephen Bantillo as panelists for the discussion. The presentation panelists will delve into the definition of recycling.

Learn more about the webinar and register here!

 

Awards Deadline Extended to July 6, 2016

Last Chance!

The NRC Awards Deadline has been extended until July 6, 2016.

All that needs to be done to nominate a outstanding program or individual is write a 150 word summary and 1000 word document on why they should win! Review the criteria to be included in the documents and submit all documents to this SurveyMonkey form.

Your nominees will thank-you and will be honored at Resource Recycling’s Annual Conference in New Orleans from August 30 – September 1, 2016. Take this extended opportunity to honor a program or individual that deserves it!

 

 

 

Recycling Scholarships Available to New Orleans College Students

Since 1994, the National Recycling Coalition has awarded scholarships to students interested in the recycling field. This year, the NRC is awarding scholarships to qualified New Orleans area students in the amount of $1,500 each. Recipients will also receive complementary admission to the Resource Recycling Conference from August 30th through September 1st. Also included is a one-year membership to the Coalition.

Scholarship applications can be submitted at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NRCScholarship. Applications must be received no later than July 22nd.  Winners will be announced by August 5, 2016.

5th Annual USZWBC National Zero Waste Business Conference

Hoping to tune in and learn what’s new with Zero Waste for your business?  Join the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (www.uszwbc.org) and industry leaders from across the globe in Austin, Texas June 1-4, 2016 for the 5th annual National Zero Waste Business Conference “Tuning in to Zero Waste.”  The event is conducted by USZWBC and hosted/sponsored by Austin Resource Recovery as a venue for professionals from all sectors (private, public, nonprofit, academia) to expand their Zero Waste knowledge.  The event will provide educational resources, networking opportunities, and professional training for businesses to begin (or fine tune) their efforts to pursue Zero Waste. It will also provide sessions lead by experts on Zero Waste related topics such as operations, economics, policies and more.  Each year, the event grows larger as the value of attending this conference is shared. Stay tuned to the “Zero Waste station” via www.uszwbc.org for more information including early bird registration, sponsorship opportunities, program and much more.

Special offer for NRC network: enter the code “nzwbc16nrc” during registration and a set of 20% off discounted rates will appear!!! Register today at www.uszwbc.org!

National Recycling Coalition Sets Record Straight: NRC Calls Shughart’s Attacks on Recycling Dangerously Misleading

William F. Shughart II’s recent Commentary, “Recycling makes greenies go gaga, but it’s a real burden for the rest of us” is replete with unfounded assumptions, gross generalizations and false statements that are dangerously misleading. We at the National Recycling Coalition know that recycling makes sound environmental policy, as well as sound business practice, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits within our local communities, across the country and throughout the globe. It is an undisputed truth that more Americans – and more manufacturers – recycle today than in past decades, and they do so for good reason.

If, in fact as Shughart asserts, “the costs associated with the process of recycling almost always outweigh the benefits” why do manufacturers around the world rely on recycled metal, paper, plastic and other commodities for meeting nearly 50% of their raw material needs? Here in the US, steelmakers rely on iron and steel scrap – processed from items as diverse as automobiles, household appliances demolished bridges and old machinery – to make roughly two-thirds of the steel produced in the country every year. One-third of the U.S. aluminum supply comes from soda cans, aluminum siding and other forms of aluminum scrap.

And paper? Shughart’s statement that “it’s more expensive and more resource-intensive to recycle old paper than to cut and pulp pine trees …” is patently false. If it were true why would the US paper industry rely on recovered fiber produced from such items as old newspapers, magazines, catalogs, office paper and used corrugated boxes for more than half of their supply need today? And yes, paper mills are beating down the door to buy quality scrap paper.

Mr. Shughart proclaims that landfilling is better than recycling, conveniently ignoring the environmental costs of landfilling, as well as the financial costs to our communities. According to the USEPA, “nearly 30 organic hazardous air pollutants have been identified in uncontrolled LFG (landfill gas), including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and vinyl chloride. Exposure to these pollutants can lead to adverse health effects.” Landfills are also the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Recycling not only avoids these harmful effects, but also the use of recycled instead of virgin materials. This reduces the production of carbon dioxide by significantly saving the amount of energy needed to manufacture the products that we buy, build and use every day.

A true cost comparison of recycling and landfilling must examine the full costs of those services on a program by program basis. There is great variation across the country. Researching the costs of each program requires an analysis of curbside collection and processing/management costs – however, the majority of recycling programs offer opportunities for revenues to offset some recycling costs – waste to landfill offers no such opportunity.

Recycling is an important economic engine and job creator, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and generating $11.2 billion in tax revenues for the federal, state and local governments. Every 10,000 metric tons of recyclables generates 37 jobs, which equates to $1.1 million in wages and $330,000 in tax revenues And recycling’s economic benefits can be found in every state across the country.

Recycling also avoids the mining and extraction of raw materials, reducing environmental impacts in communities where mining waste can seriously degrade local landscapes and water resources. Conservation of natural resources is often not “counted” yet is a major benefit of recycling. Through the recycling of aluminum, there is the avoidance of mining bauxite ore. Recycling paper reduces the use of tree pulp. Utilizing recycled glass into new products significantly reduces energy consumption. Far from the “charade” that Shughart claims.

When one looks at the facts, it is clear that recycling makes much more sense than burying or burning our waste. The National Recycling Coalition encourages all Americans to recycle, not just because it seems like the right thing to do but because it makes clear environmental and economic sense.

from the National Recycling Coalition Board of Directors:

Bob Gedert, NRC President
Stephen Bantillo, Executive Director, Recycling Certification Institute
Gary Bilbro, President, SMART Recycling of SC
Robert J. Bylone, Jr., Exec Director and President, Penn Recycling Markets Center
Jeffrey Cooper, Business Development Manager, AECC Group
Jack DeBell, Development Director, University of Colorado Recycling
George Dreckmann, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, City of Madison, WI
MaryEllen Etienne, CEO, Reuse Institute
John Frederick, Executive Director, Intermunicipal Relations Committee
David Juri Freeman, Recycling Program Manager, City and County of Denver
Marjorie Griek, Principal, Pearl Consulting, LLC
Brent Hildebrand, VP Operations, Alpine Recycling and Waste
Doug Hill, President, EcoVision Environmental
Mark Lichtenstein, Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Sustainability, State
University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Gary Liss, Zero-Waste Consultant, Gary Liss & Associates
Fran McPoland, Vice President, Paper Recycling Coalition & 100 Percent Recycled
Paper Alliance
Michelle Minstrell
Maite Quinn, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Sims Municipal
Recycling
Antonio Rios, President, Puerto Rico Recycling Coalition
Julie L. Rhodes, President, Julie L. Rhodes Consulting
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

 

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.

National Recycling Coalition | 1220 L St NW | Suite 100-155 | Washington, DC 20005 | nrcrecycles.org

 

New NRC Officers

Congratulations to the new NRC Officers for the 2015-16 year! Officers were elected at the December 10, 2015 NRC Board meeting at Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in Brooklyn, NY.

Chair of the Board: Julie Rhodes
President: Bob Gedert
Executive Vice President/CEO: Marjie Griek
Additional Vice Presidents: Gary Bilbro and Stephen Bantillo
Secretary: Gary Liss
Treasurer: Julie Rhodes
At-large Executive Committee: George Dreckmann, Will Sagar, and Fran McPoland

Next NRC Board Meeting

The NRC Board will be meeting December 10th in New York City to welcome the new Board and elect new officers.

Where: Sims Municipal Recycling – Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility, 472 2nd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232
When: 11am – 5pm ET

The National Recycling Coalition 2015 Awards Recipients

This September, The National Recycling Coalition honored recycling awards recipients at the Resource Recycling Conference in Indianapolis. The awards were presented to the recipients at the 2015 Murray J. Fox Scholarship and NRC Annual Awards Luncheon.

The awards program is designed to honor and recognize outstanding individuals, programs, and organizations around the country, both for their achievements, and to serve as a model and a resource for learning for NRC members. Award categories range from higher education, not- for and for-profit organizations, business leadership, as well as recognition of outstanding programs.

NRC’s Awards Committee Chair Lisa Skumatz commented on the process saying of fellow committee members, “They worked long and hard to sort from among several score of submittals to find those shining examples – a task that was made particularly hard because there were so many really stellar nominees.”

2015 Awards and Recipients

  • Outstanding Business Leadership For-Profit Company- Rumpke Inc.
  • Outstanding Not-for-profit Business Leadership- Northeast Recycling Council (NERC)
  • Outstanding Recycling Organization- Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin (AROW)
  • Outstanding Higher Education- Michigan State University’s Surplus Store & Recycling Center
  • Outstanding Community or Government Program- Catawba County Recycling
  • Lifetime Achievement in Recycling- George Dreckmann, City of Madison
  • Murray J. Fox Endowment Scholarship- Ryan Hackbarth, Leah Lahu, Gabrielle Vinyar, Spencer Wesche

Details of the Awards and Winners

Outstanding Business Leadership For-Profit Company

This year, the Outstanding Business Leadership For-Profit Company award, which is awarded to a company showing leadership, innovation, success as model in recycling and diversion, was presented to

Rumpke, Inc. and the Dayton Glass Processing Facility. Mike Bramkamp, regional Vice President of Rumpke Waste & Recycling’s Northwest Market accepted the award at the event.

Operating in Ohio since 1932, Rumpke operates some of the most technologically advanced recycling facilities in the US. With $4 million in upgrades, supported by a $500K grant from Ohio EPA, Rumpke was able to expand – in fact double – their state of the art glass processing facility in Dayton to keep up with the 40,000 tons of glass they collect from about 1.4 million residential and commercial customers from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. The glass is processed to create a highly-demanded raw material necessary to manufacture fiber glass and container glass and play a key role in stabilizing regional glass markets at a time when many municipalities are removing glass from their list of acceptable materials. Rumpke’s success in glass processing is a model for others in the US to prepare glass for end users.

Outstanding Not-for-profit Business Leadership

The Northeast Recycling Council, or NERC, was the recipient of this award presented to a non-profit company showing leadership, innovation, success as model in recycling and diversion. The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) – now 28 years old! – is a multi-state non-profit organization serving Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

On hand to receive the award was Mary Ann Remolador, Assistant Director & Events Organizer for the Northeast Recycling Council, who commented, “NERC staff is honored to receive the Not-for-Profit Recycling Business award from NRC.  And we are delighted to be recognized by our peers for our work. Thank you.”

In addition to its focus on environmental and economic sustainability through responsible solid waste management, NERC’s mission is to promote sustainable materials management by supporting traditional and innovative solid waste best practices, focusing on waste prevention, EPP, toxics reduction, reuse, recycling and organics recovery.

Outstanding Recycling Organization

This award, which recognizes a State or other recycling organization with outstanding growth, programs, leadership, or contribution and impact in the field, was accepted on behalf of the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin by Karen Sieg, their Executive Director. “AROW is extremely proud to receive this award, because it represents the great work AROW’s board, staff, committee chairs and members has done to serve our fellow members and to support our industry.”

Now 25 years old, Member-focused Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, or AROW, has been providing statewide proactive leadership on waste reduction and recycling in Wisconsin. It provides an array of services, including education resources to local government, best practices, advocacy, and a focus on collaboration, networking and “connecting” actors to get materials and get materials to market. AROW has grown from its 20th Century roots to a 21st Century organization focused on promoting a broad range of policies and strives to provide insightful comments and valuable information to legislators, its members and the public and on critical legislation or issues that will affect them and our industry.

Outstanding Higher Education

The Michigan State University’s Surplus Store & Recycling Center (SSRC) won this award for an exceptional program in recycling or in connecting higher education and the industry, in degrees, tech transfer, and career services links. This center processes and markets 9.5 million pounds of recyclables annually, including 4 million pounds from a public drop off center serving 17 different zip codes. The SSRC also processes 10 million pounds of organic waste and reusables annually. Non-traditional materials are processed through a highest and best use model that focuses on reuse first. SSRC’s greatest accomplishments are building a processing center and store, growing its services and increasing diversion with no additional or new funding.

Outstanding Community or Government Program

Catawba County Recycling received this award recognizing a program showing innovation, progress, and success as model for other public programs. There were many factors contributing to NRC’s Awards Committee’s decision to award Catawba County. Recycling and being kind to the environment is the way of life for many Catawban’s, but it’s also about the local government’s commitment to environmental sustainability that contributes to programs overall success. Building a sustainable program….an innovative twist on Recycling and Solid Waste Management…. Catawba County’s EcoComplex components continue to evolve to meet the goal of developing a system that will recover useable products and by-products from private and public partners that will work together to use each other’s waste products either as a source of energy or as a raw material for the manufacture of their own product. The EcoComplex is focused on making and using “green” energy and on the economic development of Catawba County.

Amanda Kain, of Catawba County Recycling accepted the award at the NRC Annual Awards Luncheon. “We are very pleased to win this award that reflects the dedicated efforts of Catawba County citizens, businesses (particularly Republic Services, the County’s solid waste franchisee), school systems and our cities and towns, who have made recycling a very high priority for more than two decades,” said Amanda Kain, Catawba County’s Waste Reduction Coordinator and Educator.

From the many recycling programs offered throughout the county to its innovative EcoComplex and Blackburn Resource Recovery Facility, Catawba County continues to be a leader in recycling, waste reduction and solid waste management.

Lifetime Achievement in Recycling

From the City of Madison Wisconsin, George Dreckmann is NRC’s 2015 winner for Lifetime Achievement in Recycling recognizing his commitment, dedication, and leadership in the field.

Madison began collecting newspapers at the curb in 1968 making it the oldest curbside recycling program in the country. George Dreckmann has led Madison’s recycling program since 1989, with demonstrated leadership, innovation, and an environmental commitment.

Originally Madison relied on a refuse derived fuel program for its waste diversion. George implemented a yard waste recovery system, expanded the curbside program to include a full spectrum of materials, and converted the incineration facility to a transfer station and brush/wood waste recovery facility.     George added household hazardous waste (1990); electronics recycling and medication and sharps drop off (1999); textile and shoe recycling (2006), construction and demolition recycling (2010), and mattress recycling (2013), and an organics collection program is to be rolled out by the end of 2015.

He has led the program to a national leader position — In 2014 65% of its waste was either recycled or composted.   In addition, George has been an active and devoted member and board member of the National Recycling Coalition – and for those who know him, an equally devoted baseball fan!

“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” Dreckmann told the Indianapolis audience.  “This represents recognition for the men and women of the Streets Division and our committed residents who have worked so hard to make our program a success.”

Murray J. Fox Endowment Scholarship

Since 1994, the National Recycling Coalition has awarded scholarships from the Murray J. Fox Endowment to students interested in recycling careers.  This year, four Indianapolis area college students were selected: Ryan Hackbarth and Leah Lahu/ Hanover College, Gabrielle Vinyard/ Butler University, and Spencer Wesche/Franklin College.   In addition to cash scholarships and a one-year membership in the Coalition, Resource Recycling has offered complementary admission to the Resource Recycling Conference.

Notable supporters and contributors of these awards include: Patty Moore, of Moore Recycling Associates, Inc.; award supplier Dan Weisenbach of Weisenbach Recycled Products; Gary Bilbro, President and CEO of SMART Recycling of South Carolina; Mark Lichtenstein, President and CEO of the NRC, and from Syracuse University Sustainability; Margie Griek, Executive Director of the Colorado Association for Recycling; Robin Weiner, President of ISRI, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; Jack DeBell, Recycling Manager from the University of Colorado – Boulder; Arley Owens, President and CEO of Earth Green Team; Lisa Skumatz, Principal of Skumatz Economic Research Associates

The National Recycling Coalition congratulates all of this year’s winners!