GRRN Update on Salt Lake Olympic Recycling Plans
Concerns Remain Over Zero Waste Claim
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee's (SLOC) "Draft Waste Management Plan" for the Olympics articulates a "zero waste goal," but the plan's overall design will not achieve zero waste. SLOC's zero waste claim recently caught the attention of the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), which is the U.S. leader in the growing international zero waste movement.
SLOC should be applauded for setting high recycling goals, and for rejecting the original plan to mix garbage and recyclables at public venues. But the plan still lacks sufficient detail and engagement of the public to achieve zero waste. In fact, some of the original Plan's specifics would have actually undermined efforts at maximum waste reduction.
GRRN's concern over SLOC's zero waste claim, and the potential misuse of that term, motivated GRRN representatives to spearhead a resolution adopted at the recent annual meeting of the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA), cautioning against misuse of the zero waste term, and recommending specific remedial actions. The resolution stated, in part,
"The Zero Waste goal will only have value if a more comprehensive plan for reducing waste and reusing, recycling and composting materials collected is implemented. The planned system that was reported to process all materials collected as mixed waste will not achieve the SLOC's stated Zero Waste goal If the SLOC chooses not to modify its purchasing and service plans for the Olympics, it should not describe this system as a "Zero Waste" system."
The full text of CRRA's resolution is available at the end of this summary.
Following CRRA's July 8, 2001 adoption of the GRRN resolution and a news release announcing the resolution, Gary Liss, GRRN's Zero Waste Business Standards project coordinator, contacted representatives of the SLOC to voice concerns and offered assistance to improve the SLOC Waste Management Plan. SLOC organized a Recycling Forum on August 16 to address GRRN's concerns, elements of the CRRA resolution and similar concerns expressed by others. The Forum included representatives of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Coca Cola, National Association for PET Container Resources, EPA Region 8, Solid Waste Association of North America, U.S. Composting Council, Recycling Coalition of Utah, National Recycling Coalition, Manitoba Product Stewardship Corporation, Green Valley Recycle and Compost (SLOC's recycling contractor), as well as assorted Utah state and municipal officials and SLOC representatives.
The Recycling Forum resulted in numerous suggested improvements to the SLOC Waste Management Plan, including several specifically addressing elements of the CRRA resolution. Importantly, the Forum agreed on the importance of a two-bin collection system for public venues and education efforts to maximize collection of recyclables. The Forum acknowledged that SLOC has designed out some waste from their event planning, recommending environmentally preferable alternatives for commonly used items at the Olympics' public venues. The Forum commended SLOC for its use of recycled building materials and for its recent negotiations to obtain biodegradable plates and bowls. The Forum emphasized that the most significant legacy of SLOC's Waste Management Plan will be the large scale food waste composting program, a first for the Salt Lake City area.
Despite these highlights, the Forum did not result in clear commitments from SLOC on these major areas of concern, nor an agreement from SLOC to stop using the zero waste term to describe their waste management efforts. The SLOC would need to significantly alter its plan and establish clear, detailed criteria for executing the plan in order to approximate the zero waste claim, including committing to:
The Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics clearly is not likely to be a zero waste event, and the SLOC's Waste Management Plan is not designed to achieve the zero waste goal.
lingering doubts and serious concerns demand that the zero waste community
join GRRN to monitor closely the on-going planning and the events themselves.
The SLOC should be on notice that their continued use of the zero waste
claim is met with disfavor by those working to develop and promote zero
waste practices and events. The SLOC experience underscores the urgent
need to watchdog use of the zero waste term, in order to avoid its cooptation
and eventual dilution from overuse.
Full text of the CRRA Resolution, Adopted July 8, 2001
Resource Recovery Association
Whereas, the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City is promoting itself as a "Zero Waste" event, and
Whereas, the Global Recycling Council (GRC), the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) and the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) have been leaders in the nation in advocating for Zero Waste, and
Whereas, the Salt Lake Olympics Committee (SLOC) has contracted with a firm to process commingled recyclables and wastes collected from the public in a mixed waste MRF, and
Whereas, the SLOC is promoting this as preferable to the "recyclables," "compostables" and "trash" system used in the Sydney Australia Olympics as it is "simple: single containers for all trash" as reported in Waste News of July 5, 2001.
Now, therefore be it resolved by the Board of Directors of CRRA that: