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« Richard Anthony’s Answers to 5 Questions Retrain Us for Zero Waste Living »

A few years ago I heard Richard Anthony speak at a seminar. It was not difficult to recognize quickly his knowledge about reducing waste to zero, and his passionate commitment to making it happen. Richard heads Richard Anthony Associates, San Diego, where the goal is “to design and produce zero waste programs that create jobs from discards” www.richardanthonyassociates.com/index.html. Richard is in the thick of retraining societies, businesses—all of us—moving us from a disposable, MultiEarth way of thinking to loving the one planet we have so much that practicing zero waste is the socially acceptable thing to do. He is part of the Zero Waste International Alliance.

In this blog interview, Richard tells us how we can move to being zero wasters and advocate for the policies that help get our world there. His answers are a great follow through on this past Earth Day (April 22, 2017)!

Q#1: What do the words “zero waste” mean in our current world? 

The Zero Waste International Alliance website, www.zwia.org, has a peer reviewed internationally affirmed definition and vision. 

 “Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”

 Locally, Zero Waste pursues this same mission: to emulate nature; prevent burning or burying of “wastes” that are resources for other products; designing products with the environment in mind. 

Q#2: What is the history of zero waste?

The best source is the book by Paul Connett, The Zero Waste Solutions (2013), Chelsea Green Publishing. I have long been involved in the rapidly unfolding story of zero waste and write a history starting in 2002 that is from my own experience locally and internationally. You can read that online, http://zwia.org/aboutus/zwia-history/. To give a sense of how globally the zero waste effort is now embraced, conferences continue in cities around the globe and Zero Waste Plans are being followed in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, San Diego, and New York. In Italy over 1000 cities are pursuing zero waste.

Q#3: What economic changes can best encourage moving to zero waste?

We need the following economic policies to fulfill zero waste living:

  •  tax resource extraction and use rather than income through labor.
  •  allow zero pollution of air, water, and land. 
  •  allow no products to be made and sold unless the are recyclable or compostable, following the “cradle to cradle” model promoted by William McDonough and others.

Q#4: How can an apartment or condo complex move to zero waste since residents who want to waste less may discover that the complex owners or governance do not share the same values?

  • Work with the waste hauler. 
  • Be sure to have blue bins for co-mingled recyclables (no film plastic or wet stuff). 
  • Have clear information and signage on the bin; notify renters or owners of the separation requirement. 
  • Consider handing out bags to hold the waste until residents are ready to carry it out to the bins.

Q#5: What are the zero waste goals between now and 2020?

The Save the Albatross website, http://albatrosscoalition.org/, has made the albatross an icon to gain attention for many zero waste goals in the next few years. These include:

  • Reduce the quantity of plastic discards through product redesign. Make it the responsibility of the producer. Ban disposable products and transition to re-usable products..
  • Bring producers to the table to work on plans for them to take responsibility for discarded plastic through: buy back, minimum content in their products, and land recovery campaigns.
  • Motivate identified generators of plastic disposables to pay for plastic cleanup on Midway and other US Pacific Islands.
  • Educate consumers that there is no “away” and Zero Waste is the correct direction for social behavior.

In California we continue to pursue a statewide zero waste goal and Plan and continue to organize regional education programs, especially for facility managers.

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