Zero Waste

In order to defeat the incinerator, Regional Councillors needed to be satisfied that there was a readily available alternative - which in Durham's case, because of prior decisions, could not be landfill.

The EA did only a cursory analysis of Zero Waste and rejected it - this was back in 2005 when Durham's own diversion was at 36%. Numerous councillors scoffed at the idea.

To achieve anywhere near Zero Waste, you need to change the mindset. Garbage is not something to be disposed of , it is raw materials (albeit messy) to be recovered and reused.

The first step is to analyse what garbage consists of. The following chart is primarily from a report prepared by Golder Associates for the Region in early 2009.

The most important take-away from this list is that there is nothing here that is labelled garbage. In fact the vast majority of it would have been less than a year old at the point it was discarded. There is nothing here that we can't identify easily and figure out what it is made of.

The other take-away is that everything here can be recycled and MOST IMPORTANTLY, EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST IS CURRENTLY BEING RECYCLED SOMEWHERE. So if it's being recycled somewhere, why not here. ZERO WASTE IS ACHIEVABLE.

Many municipalities are actively pursuing Zero Waste, most notably San Francisco which is currently at 78% and aiming for Zero in 2020.

In order to ensure that Durham regional councillors are aware that zero waste can be achieved, DurhamCLEAR president, Doug Anderson, made a presentation to Regional Council on April 6, 2011 using these Durham-specific numbers and spelling out in some detail how it could be achieved.

The powerpoint of his presentation can be viewed HERE. This file includes the speaking notes which clarify the slides. There are also a few extra slides here which were omitted from the presentation in order to compress it into the 10-minute limit.

There are references in the presentation to other sites and the links to these are listed here:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s press announcement on achieving 77% diversion.

San Francisco's Environment Department site which links further to all sorts of information on how SF handles its waste.

Brief interview with one of the people who helped defeat efforts to locate an incinerator for San Francisco's garbage in the neighbouring community of Brisbane