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Zero Cut Meets Zero Waste
By Bill Sheehan, Ph.D.
GRRN Network Coordinator

Zero Cut activists have a new ally -- Zero Waste activists. This is significant because Zero Waste is necessary for achieving Zero Cut -- and vice versa.

Trying to save forests without addressing demand for forest products is futile. For the most part, forest products travel in a one-way economic treadmill from forest to landfill. Virgin forest products (paper and lumber) constitute more than half of what is being wasted (landfilled and incinerated) in the United States. Limiting concern to preserving natural forests and wild habitats is akin to U.S. foreign policy aimed at stopping the drug supply in Latin America while ignoring demand at home.

Zero Waste is a growing movement started by community recycling activists. It arose in response to attacks from right wing extremists, retrenchments by corporations on commitments to recycle, and the mistaken belief of a large part of the public that recycling has been "solved."

Zero Waste is the central message of the GrassRoots Recycling Network. GRRN is dedicated to environmental stewardship and achieving a sustainable economy by eliminating waste and reusing, recycling and composting resources. Eliminating waste and cycling all of our used resources back into the economy will support community economic growth, create jobs, save wilderness, reduce pollution and conserve natural resources.

Zero Waste activists believe that virtually ALL of our society's discards can be redesigned, reduced, reused, recycled or composted -- and those that can't should be banned. When manufacturers and producers are made responsible for their products and when subsidies for wasting are reduced or eliminated, recycling will out-compete wasting.

Practically ALL used wood and paper can be reused or recycled if it is kept clean and unmixed with other materials. What is left or is mixed with other non-toxic organic materials (such as paper contaminated with food scraps) can be made into mulch or compost. Forest products impregnated with toxic substances (such as treated lumber and particle board made with toxic glues) or products made of two or more materials (such as aseptic drink containers made of paper and aluminum) are best dealt with at the design stage or their cost should include an advance disposal fee for the necessary extra processing.

The development of ‘total recycling’ facilities that aim to capture the entire discard supply is a goal of Zero Waste advocates. This is more than a pipe dream. For example, Canberra, the capitol of Australia, has a plan to replace its two landfills with ‘recycling estates’ by the year 2010. This is good news for forests, natural habitats and biodiversity because every piece of paper and wood put back in commerce means that much less market for cutting down new trees.

Both the movement for a sustainable materials economy (recycling and waste reduction) and the movement for preserving natural lands will be strengthened by joining forces. Zero Cut meets Zero Waste!

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