March 22, 2019
As it appeared in The Capitol Times (Madison WI), March 27, 2002
By Michelle Gerise Godwin
In 1996, the
newly formed GrassRoots Recycling Network kicked off its first Zero
Waste campaign with a command: "Take It Back!"
Aimed at Coca-Cola
and Pepsi, the group of waste reduction activists challenged the
two largest soft drink companies to keep a public promise made some
years earlier: Coke and Pepsi had pledged an immediate increase
of recycled content in their plastic drink bottles - up to 25 percent
- yet the results fizzled.
network - along with socially responsible investment firms, endorsing
organizations, and thousands of consumers - has continued to put
on the pressure. To date, Coke has set another immediate goal of
10 percent recycled content in its beverage containers, while Pepsi
promises its 10 percent by 2005. (An interesting side note on that
particular cola product: According to the network, "Not an
Ounce of Responsibility: Coke, Pepsi and Plastic Bottle Waste,"
Pepsi currently uses 0 percent recycled plastic in its bottles and,
after its acquisition of Gatorade, actually attempted to eliminate
that brand's recycled plastic content. Talk about the Joy of Waste!
Couldn't Britney do something?)
working on with Coke and Pepsi is an example of a key element for
Zero Waste, and that is EPR or Extended Producer Responsibility,"
says David Wood, the network's program director. "Meaning,
manufacturers need to take back their product at the end of its
useful life, instead of having it end up in landfills or burned
in incinerators at the public's expense. GRRN targeted these two
beverage giants because in the last decade the rate of plastic bottles
wasted has doubled, and that has to stop."
Wood, the current paradigm of wasting is ineffective. He notes that
along with the push for recycled plastics, the beverage container
recovery rate needs to increase as well. Business and Environmentalists
Allied for Recycling would like to see that number hit 80 percent,
says Wood, and one of the best ways to attain that goal is through
introducing "bottle bills," or deposit laws.
of the paradigm involves the disposal of electronic devices. "That
waste has been shipped overseas to Asia under the pretext of recycling,
when again, it should be the producers' responsibility here in the
U.S.," says Wood. Indeed, according to a recent New York Times
article, between "50 and 80 percent of electronics waste collected
for recycling in the United States is placed on container ships
and sent to China, India, Pakistan or other developing countries."
and television displays containing an average 8 pounds of lead are
often burned out in the open in order to extract bits of gold or
copper. The Times reported that young children are used for dismantling
materials such as toner cartridges and are unaware of the hazards.
"Workers without any protective respiratory equipment or special
clothing of any kind opened cartridges with screwdrivers and then
used paint brushes and their hands to (transfer) the toner into
a bucket. . . . the process created constant clouds of toner, which
were routinely inhaled."
says Wood, the GrassRoots Recycling Network and ecopledge.com
have launched a campaign against Dell, demanding that the computer
manufacturer "match its position as the global profit and sales
leader with superior environmental performance and lead the PC and
consumer electronics industries to take back products at the end
of their useful life."
Again, it comes
down to EPR," says Wood. "Individuals have no say in the
design of products or the marketing of products, yet we get stuck
with figuring out how to dispose of them and it is our health and
our environment that is at risk. And with shipping waste abroad,
other people's health and environment are at risk. Now more than
ever, we need corporate responsibility for waste and public policy
that promotes sustainable domestic solutions."
information on the GrassRoots Recycling Network and Zero Waste campaigns,
go to www.grrn.org, or call David Wood at 270-0940.
Michelle Gerise Godwin is a Madison writer.