Will Your Body

By Susan Blachman
I watched the UCSF Willed Body Donation staff respectfully dress my father’s body, gently lift it from his bed and place it into a maroon colored body bag on a gurney, zip it closed and wheel it away. Since he lived in a community of elders, they were thoughtful about how they transported his body in the common spaces.

As a child of the Depression, my dad was thrifty and an ardent proponent of recycling and reuse. Also, he was committed to education. So, many years prior to his cancer diagnosis, he and my mom agreed to donate their bodies to science through the Stanford University Willed Body Program.

We try to be green while we live, but what about when we die? Traditional ground-based burial has major environmental impacts. Embalming fluids pollute the soil. Energy, chemicals and water are expended in manufacturing and transporting tombstones, caskets, flowers and maintaining cemeteries.

There are more environmentally benign alternatives — green burial, willed body donation, whole body burial at sea, cremation and backyard burial. More unusual alternatives under development include promession and alkaline hydrolysis (used by veterinary schools to dispose of animal remains using a decomposing solution), human composting and infinity burial suits (which contain mushroom spores embroidered into the fabric that detoxify the body as it decomposes).

There are over sixty-five medical schools across the country that accept full body donations for research and education, as well as a number of for-profit companies engaged in the development of medical and surgical products.

Willed body donation is available to almost everyone. However, some programs, like Stanford’s, reserve the right to refuse donations and most do not accept bodies lacking donated organs and/or tissue.  In general, organ donation can occur only if death takes place in a hospital where the organs can be quickly harvested.

Much as he wanted to know, the Stanford University Willed Body Program staff could not commit to accepting my father’s body until he was close to the end.  About a week before he died, they refused his donation because his edema exceeded 2 (meaning, it took more than 2 seconds for his skin to smooth out after being poked due to water retention). Quickly, I turned to the internet and learned that the UCSF Willed Body Program is less particular.  I helped my father apply to UCSF and his application was promptly accepted, allowing him to brag that he was admitted to two of the nation’s top medical schools.

After the medical school or research institution has finished using the body, the remains are cremated and scattered, or in some cases the ashes are returned to the family. UCSF scatters the ashes at sea, while Stanford allows families to choose.

Since its inception, the UCSF Willed Body Program has supplied cadavers to UCSF’s medical and dental programs, UCSF pharmacy and physical therapy students, anatomy courses in the Cal State and community college systems and private universities throughout northern California. Donated bodies are used to teach students and to develop and test new surgical procedures and devices. As the UCSF website states: “the need for donations is great and the gift is valued and honored.”

The UCSF Willed Body Program does an amazing job of providing an unusual and important service. I am proud, pleased and amused that in his last act my father was able to die as he lived, in pursuit of his values of scientific knowledge, education, recycling, reuse and frugality.

For more information, please visit the following sites. Even if you sign up, you and your family are under no obligation to donate your body. Read more… UCF   and Stanford

NCRA and SWANA GRC Fall Happy Hour

NCRA and SWANA GRC Fall Happy Hour

Uproar Brewing Company, San Jose

Thursday, October 5th, 4:30pm-7:00

Join the Northern California Recycling Association and Solid Waste Association of North America’s Gold Rush Chapter for a happy hour mixer and a chance to meet and mingle with others with similar interests! 

The event is Thursday, October 5th from 4:30-7:00pm at the Uproar Brewing Company in downtown San Jose.  This is a new brewery in San Jose in a hip, laid-back warehouse-style space. Parking is validated from ParkSJ parking garages, and there is also metered street parking available. It’s about a 20 min transit trip from the Diridon Caltrain station. There are also stops nearby for bus and light rail.

Appetizers and the first round of drinks will be provided (sponsored by NCRA and SWANA Gold Rush Chapter). All members and potential members are welcome. Please feel free to share this with other professionals in the environmental industry, and college students interested in our industry.

No RSVP is required. We hope to see you there!

Survey of CRV Redemption Operators, June 2017, 2


In the July we started the Buy Back Operator interview series highlighting Community Conservation Centers aka the Berkeley BuyBack. The interviews were conducted by Doug Brooms in collaboration with Dan Knapp, Ph.D., Urban Ore, Inc. Our subject this month is Aaron Metals Company of Oakland. But first let’s address the purpose of the interviews.

California lost about 35% of its redemption centers in the last four years. According to CalRecycle, the State agency that oversees recycling, during the past 12 months since April 2016, another 140 collection centers have closed. Now there are only 1,692 statewide. In Alameda County, 28 redemption centers remain, of which 6 are in Oakland. The erosion of businesses and jobs, the drop in resource recovery and the inconveniences to consumers of having fewer redemption centers are no longer tolerable.

Nonprofit recycling advocacy organization, Californians Against Waste, has requested a survey of Bay Area recycling centers that return Container Redemption Value (CRV) deposits to the public. They are working to understand the impacts both on businesses and on local communities. They will use the information gathered first to understand the impacts, and then to inform decision-makers in Sacramento who are working on reversing these closures. The information will also be used to inform the public. We want to make each interview into a very short informative story that people can relate to.

NCRA News Editor Portia Sinnott has turned the interview format into a draft on-line survey and has asked Doug Brooms, Dan Knapp and the NCRA Board to authorize her to survey the entire state. One may think the passage of the current Bottle Bill Fix may render the survey unproductive, but to the contrary it will provide baseline data by which to measure progress.

Aaron Metals Company
Aaron Metals Company is a family owned business spanning three generations over 41 years. They operate walk and drive-in operations in East Oakland and in Hayward. Their bread and butter remains scrap non-ferrous metals, with CRV redemption as a more recent adjunct. In Oakland when pickup trucks arrive, their scrap metal pieces are tossed into different wheelbarrows having marked tare weights, then rolled onto the scale for quick processing and payments. The premise is tidy with neat colorful bales of scrap wire stacked against a perimeter fence, with forklifts moving about. A three person office is located towards the rear.

The interview began with son Aaron, and later joined by father Paul. Their scrap metal business has remained steady over the years, whereas the CRV sector has seen a downward trend. Most Bay Area residents don’t so much care about their nickels and presumably opt for the more convenient curbside recycling cart. Nearly all of the walk-in business comes from the less fortunate, who bring in bags of collectibles to convert to ready cash. They are situated in a CIS-Mixed Zone with nearby housing. Complaints are infrequent, maybe every few years having to defend a nuisance complaint using a pricey lawyer.

The CRV business has not been a money maker for them. Paying out for plastics #1 and #2 is fine. State reimbursements take only 2-3 weeks after invoicing. However they absorb the loss with occasional plastics #3 – #7, given the difficulties of selling to processors. Consideration is being given to de-certifying their Hayward CRV operation. Having to handle uncommon CRV stuff and glass is not worth it.

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Recycle Bicycle Tour of West Oakland! 11/11/17


Saturday, November 11th, 10:30 am – 1pm Recycle Bicycle Tour of West Oakland hosted by Northern California Recycling Association

Hop on a bicycle and explore the community of West Oakland through the lens of recycling.  Participants will have the opportunity to meet other biking recyclers, take in views of the Bay from a pristine park at the Port of Oakland, and understand the unique history of an area that hosts many of the Bay Area’s recyclers and Zero Waste innovators. End the tour at Old Kan Beer for drinks & food.

Meet at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at 14th and Broadway in Downtown Oakland directly in front of City Hall at 10:30 am. 

FREE REGISTRATION HERE for the new tour date of 11/11