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Influence of Zero Waste and Product Stewardship on California Today
A Slide Presentation by Linda Moulton-Patterson, Chair
California Integrated Waste Management Board
given to the Air & Waste Management Association
San Diego, CA
June 24, 2003

Last modified: March 23, 2019

Good afternoon.

It is a pleasure to be here today, and to have this opportunity to discuss some of the waste management issues facing California, and in particular to share with you how the emerging concepts of zero-waste and product stewardship – concepts contained in the Board’s Strategic Plan – may influence where we are heading.

The Strategic Plan, adopted by the Board in 2001, is our road map to the future. There are seven goals targeted in this plan. Today, the focus of my comments will address two of those seven goals – highlighted in gold on the slide in front of you. For example, goal 1 prioritizes Product Stewardship, as well as a number of other resource management approaches; while goal #7, establishes a vision for a Zero Waste California.

As you can see, in addition to product stewardship and Zero Waste —there are a number of other important goals in this plan that have been prioritized; they include market development, public education, permitting & enforcement, internal efficiency and effectiveness, and environmental justice. As we continue to move on all of these fronts, our ultimate vision is one of sustainability and the safe handling of California’s precious resources.

As we continue to lead efforts toward a sustainable California, it is important to assess where we’ve been over the past decade, and celebrate our accomplishments as a state, so we can better understand the challenges before us.

Shortly after I became the Board’s chair in 1999, we sent a 10?year anniversary report to the Legislature titled Achievement, Progress and Promise, in which we outlined the commitment of local government, private industry, and the Board in implementing the Integrated Waste Management Act and its pinnacle requirement: reducing California’s disposal burden 50 percent in 2000.

Those requirements were born out of the late 1980s perception of a landfill crisis. California – like so many of its sister states across the nation was running out of places to put its trash. Through the planning and waste diversion efforts of local jurisdictions we have reached 48% diversion statewide, and as a result - California now has adequate disposal capacity for at least the next 15 years.

Looking ahead, it is evident that we have gained more than landfill capacity through local government and business waste diversion accomplishments. It’s clear that the real success of California’s Integrated Waste Management Act is economic opportunity.

California has created a new materials management economy based on the conservation and creative reutilization of its resources. This strategy is eclipsing the disposal-based waste management system of the past. California’s diversion and recycling industry is a $10 billion industry, consisting of 5,300 establishments and employing 85,000 Californians. Waste diversion has almost twice the economic impact of disposal per ton of material. So, pursuing higher levels of waste diversion – or striving for Zero Waste – will ultimately benefit California’s economy.

Now that the year 2000 has come and gone, the Board is looking at its next set of priorities mentioned earlier in our Strategic Plan. What the 2001 Strategic Plan does is set a number of policies in motion that have been guiding us toward a sustainable California. It has provided us with our existing direction, and is serving as the plan for the future—as we work together to ensure that California’s resources are available for all future generations. We can do this in partnership with California local governments, business and industry. Let’s look at goal 1: To increase participation in resource conservation, integrated waste management, waste prevention, and product stewardship, to reduce waste, and create a sustainable infrastructure.
And secondly, the focus of much of my discussion today … goal 7,

… which promotes a “Zero Waste California” where the public, industry, and government strive to reduce, reuse, or recycle all municipal solid waste materials back into nature or the marketplace—creating materials for new markets—in a manner that protects human health and the environment and honors the principles of the Integrated Waste Management Act.

Last year, when I addressed the Solid Waste Association of North America at their annual convention, one of my key points was the significance of our Zero Waste philosophy, one that sets a tone, and a philosophy for the future and most importantly utilizes our natural resources in the most efficient way possible.

Now, I know some of you may think that the Zero Waste goal is improbable or impossible. But let us look at what Zero Waste truly means, and how we can incorporate it into our thinking in California as well as our neighboring states represented here today.
Zero Waste maximizes recycling by ensuring that products are designed for reuse and/or repair, and then recycled.

Zero Waste involves utilizing the most effective processing and manufacturing practices to efficiently conserve raw materials, including design for efficiency, and consumer education; as well as…

Promoting technology to encourage source reduction on the front end, choosing durability over disposability to maximize resource potential, and ensuring recycling and the application of emerging technologies at the back end.

I believe our efforts are best spent, by making the connection between discards and opportunity; as the Board’s CalMAX program illustrates “One organization’s trash is another’s treasure.” Gone are the days that we look at cradle-to-grave management of resources, its time to view our consumption cycles as truly cradle-to-cradle.

This is a relatively new view of our goals and objectives at the Board. The future success of diversion programs throughout this State, and hopefully other states as well, should be tied to resources and resource management, not waste. In doing so, we appropriately set the stage for our move toward Zero Waste.

So what are some strategies? We can, for example, increase our procurement of recycled content products. Review existing and proposed laws and regulations for barriers to Zero Waste… and remove those barriers when we find them. And, continue to work with jurisdictions to ensure they meet and/or exceed existing waste diversion mandates.

Finally, we need to begin to educate the public about the principles of Zero Waste, and the opportunities that are created in a Zero Waste strategy—one that embodies resource and energy conservation and recovery.

This is where we can really use the cooperation of our creative business community: We must work together with the leaders of industry, those that are modeling Zero Waste principles for others… and helping to reduce our dependence on landfills. We are very interested in partnering with those manufacturers and distributors that both recognize and embrace the concepts of product stewardship and Zero Waste.

Product stewardship generally refers to the involvement of all responsible parties in the manufacturer and consumer chain, while playing a role in minimizing negative environmental impacts. It means that those responsible for making, distributing, using and managing products should participate in the management of these resources. It requires that manufacturers consider the downstream implications of their products.

And I would like to add, this IS beginning to happen – it’s REALLY a matter of momentum at this point.

Where product stewardship presents new challenges to industry would be how it applies market pressures to make products and packaging less “wasteful” at the end of their useful lives, or reduces the use of materials and/or toxic chemicals in their production.

The Board has a number of programs related to product stewardship. These include the legislatively mandated minimum content and related programs for rigid plastic packaging containers (RPPC), newsprint, and plastic trash bags, along with the fee-based Tire Management and Used Oil Recycling programs.

The Board also has devoted significant efforts in dealing with issues associated with electronic waste (e-waste), particularly cathode ray tubes, through its participation in the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative, also known as NEPSI, and other activities. In November 2002, the Board and the Department of Toxic Substances Control and Cal/EPA held a public workshop to discuss legislative efforts on e-waste.

International activity in this area has been intense, particularly by the European Union. To this end, we are working closely with our sister agencies and the Governor’s office to monitor the progress of several product stewardship inspired pieces of legislation. For instance, Senate Bill 20, which addresses e-waste; Senate Bill 511, which addresses mercury-containing lamps; and Assembly Bill 455, which addresses the removal of hazardous constituents from packaging materials.

In the interim, the Board continues to participate in the Memorandum of Understanding for Carpet Stewardship regarding carpet procurement and recycling, and the National Stewardship Initiative Paint and Mercury working groups. The Board also continues to discuss the comprehensive, shared responsibility solutions presented by the Plastics White Paper.

At the Board, we recognize that the pursuit of these lofty goals will not be easy, and that the road to a sustainable future will have bumps. We are especially sensitive to the plight of our local partners, the local enforcement agencies (LEAs) and municipal facility operators that are on the frontlines of new approaches to resource management.

Our recent experience with e-waste, and cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in particular, highlight the challenges ahead. Issues such as who is responsible, and how to pay for the management of materials that are no longer allowed in landfills, still lingers. We know that illegal dumping of CRTs is a real problem in many areas of the State, especially those without ready access to few if any, recovery options.

A number of communities have already begun to take action on e-waste – and this is by no means all of the activities I’ve seen to date. For example: Vacaville has started a free curbside pickup of CRTs in an effort to decrease illegal dumping; Sacramento charges $15 per CRT at their transfer station and landfill to cover their costs; Nevada County recently held an Amnesty Day Collection Event funded by a grant from the Board - they filled three 45-foot long bins in just 3 hours.

In addition, solid waste facilities throughout the State have begun increased load checking to screen e-waste and other materials out of the waste stream. There are also increased worker health and safety issues when it comes to identifying and removing these materials from transfer station tipping floors and landfill working faces. Solid waste facilities are also faced with the need for increased storage space to manage the accumulation of these products as well as the increased costs for recycling and processing.

The Board understands that cities, counties and solid waste facilities need both regulatory and financial support, to help handle hard-to-manage waste. Together, local and state government are faced with finding ways to improve the existing recycling infrastructure so that we can reduce our dependency upon disposal options, especially in poor and rural areas of the state.

Our commitment toward a sustainable environment is predicated upon the goals that I touched upon today – those of product stewardship and Zero Waste. Yet, the challenges that lie ahead are daunting, and simple solutions to tough questions are elusive.

  1. Can we adequately calculate and internalize the costs of building closed-loop systems for all materials consumed in California?
  2. Can we simply mandate—or even motivate—product manufacturers and distributors of products to be responsible for end-of-life recovery programs?
  3. Can we be open to new approaches and support emerging technologies that hold promise when it comes to resource conservation?

As the Board continues to move forward in implementing the goals of the Strategic Plan—and serve as environmental stewards for California, it is time to find solutions to these questions.

It is also time to introduce new educational programs fostered upon the belief that new and creative Zero Waste diversion programs are possible.

So join me today, and give Zero Waste a chance. For those of you that have traveled from other states, I would like to encourage you to become part of this effort. In fact, that is why I am here today - this is the time and the place to bring product stewardship and Zero Waste together—as they serve to facilitate a shared vision of sustainability, not just here in California – but in all states across the country.

With your support now and in the future, I am confident that we will continue to travel down the road to sustainability.

So, let us not toss our future away. We should promote a design for the environment, to increase educational outreach, and work to improve facility management. We need to offer solutions that limit the use of raw materials, increase the use of recycled content products, encourage product stewardship for all products, expand sustainable landscape practices and introduce food residual collection programs.

SLIDE 20 – CLOSE Local Partners
This is how I believe we can move California toward a zero-waste future. Together, we can preserve California’s resources, create a sustainable California, and be proud of what we leave behind for all future generations.

Thank you.

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