Reusable Plastic – Who Says So?

By Arthur R. Boone, Center For Recycling Research and Total Recycling Associates

Several years ago I started collecting so-called reusable plastic bags from the streets of Oakland and Berkeley. I eventually turned them into a string for a hula-type skirt with 100+ bags on the string. I have worn this bag-ban item on several occasions and if any NCRA member would like to use it for their own educational efforts; let me know. ARB”

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Should This Genie Be Let Out Of The Bottle?

Should electronic signatures be allowed to count to place initiatives on the statwide ballot?

By John Douglas Moore, co-chair NCRA Zero Waste Advocacy Committee

Feedback invited: jmoore@recyclelaw.com

California has a citizen form of government. Its citizens may pass laws (initiatives), strike down laws that have been passed (referenda), and remove from office those lawmakers passing offensive laws. (recall). California also has a recycling-friendly electorate- witness the defeat of the plastic bag business on the two referenda against bag bans in 2016. Closer to home, Alameda County Measure D with its 75% diversion mandate, landfill surcharge, and agency creation (Stopwaste) passed with over 60 % of the vote in 1990.

There is big catch to the idea of placing a statewide initiative on the ballot: To place a statewide initiative on the ballot one must collect 365,880 (5% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) signatures “personally affixed” by registered voters and witnessed by a “circulator” of the petition collecting the signatures.

Big business can place initiatives and referenda on the ballot because they can pay signature gatherers the market rate per signature, a cost in millions of dollars. Plastic bag makers, waste haulers and landfill owners, and beverage manufacturers and distributors all have the resources to put laws before the voters. In many situations it is all the opponents can do to fight against initiative and referenda, leaving those opponents so tapped of energy and resources that they cannot fight to pass laws they support. Last year’s Proposition 67 battle is a good example. Outspent by many millions of dollars, the recycling community including NCRA and CAW mounted an effective campaign to keep California’s plastic bag ban. But proposing a statewide law itself- say banning disposal of organic material at landfill, or constructing a new bottle bill that works- is too much to contemplate, mainly the required 365,880 signatures. (585,045 signatures to pass a Constitutional amendment).

But what if the signature gathering process was made easier? In the Twitter age is it too arcane to require “wet” signatures witnessed by a circulator. Can’t the internet be used to equalize the strength of opponents as it does it many ways already?

In 2011 a California Court of Appeals held in Ni v. Slocum that an e-signature drawn on a smartphone could not be counted towards the requisite number of votes in a county-wide (San Mateo County) initiative campaign to legalize marijuana. No California appellate court has taken up the issue since. One Utah court decision before Ni and one West Virginia court decision following Ni have held electronic signatures to be adequate for electoral purposes. Each Court examined the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act that was adopted by both states and California that gives e-signatures the same binding effect as wet signatures.

The Court in Ni found that the UETA did not supplant a more specific provision of the state Elections Code that does not provide for e-signatures. The Court also held that the state statutory requirement of a circulator to witness the signature of the registered voter negated the validity of e-signatures obtained on the internet and not through circulators. The Court further pointed out that a law to permit e-signatures to be used on electoral documents was passed by the state Legislature in 1997-98 only to be vetoed by then Governor Pete Wilson. Perhaps it will be technically possible in the future to satisfy the need for a “circulator” of petitions collecting signatures. Since the Ni decision is hostile to the very idea of sanctioning judicially the collection of signatures on the internet, it seems doubtful that a technology change rather than a law change would change the result in Ni. A non-profit, Electronic Signature Records Association and a for-profit technology vendor, Verafirma, are active in this field.

So Zero Waste advocates frustrated with the mills of the Legislature grinding slowly (if ever they grind at all)[1] could focus on legalizing the use of e-signatures to place statewide initiatives. The Legislature could again be convinced to pass such a law with the idea that Governor Brown would not veto it. The issue of permitting e-signatures itself could be made the subject of a statewide initiative. These pathways would require massive energy and time.

Which leads to the question- would this even be a good idea? Making the process to pass new laws easier for positions that one likes also makes it easier for positions one does not like. Look how many votes our current President received. Would letting this genie out of the bottle make for not a citizen government but for a CocaCola Government or a Waste Management government?

The political commentator, Kathleen Moore, says that “Our technology is moving faster than our morality”

I solicit your views.

[1] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

Arthur Boone Nominated for NRC Lifetime Achievement Award

National Recycling Coalition Awards, 2017
Arthur R. Boone, Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination
Submitted by Chris Lehon, Portia Sinnott and Ruth Abbe

I am pleased to nominate Arthur Robinson Boone for NRC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Boone is a pioneer and leader in the California recycling scene. Fondly known as ARB or Boone, he has had three careers – Minister, Human Rights Executive and Recycler. At 79, Arthur is semiretired but still writes for technical journals, consults with businesses and public agencies, conducts small project grants and teaches a three-day Introduction to Recycling class for the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA). A very active NCRA member, he served on the Board of Directors for 30 years. Since “retirement” he has made himself useful to the larger recycling community while pulling together his writings from the last 25 years, to which the website Center for Recycling Research is primarily dedicated.

Arthur was raised in Yonkers, N.Y. He attended Princeton University graduating cum laude in English. A year of graduate work at Brown University, a year teaching at a black college in Virginia, and three years at Union Theological Seminary in New York prepared him for the ministry of the Episcopal Church. In 1972 he became the staff director of the State of Rhode Island’s Commission for Human Rights. He was married, has four children and lives in Berkeley, CA.

In 1983, after a few weeks of on the ground research, he started managing a drop-off recycling center on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland – this was long before curbside recycling was instituted in Oakland. It was a mom-and-pop shop, on an asphalt pad without infrastructure. He told everyone, “Keep the place clean and be nice to the public.” Then he spent 20 years, working in a variety of roles – reusables sorter, consultant and pilot project visionary and implementer.

Arthur is best known today for his 18 years producing and facilitating a one-day conference each spring for NCRA called Recycling Update.  In fact it is a very popular innovations conference bringing together 25 speakers limited to ten minute presentations; some call it “speed dating for recyclers.” More than 300 people now attend this program; some of the content is posted on the NCRA website and YouTube. The format has been replicated across the country by other recycling organizations.

Center for Recycling Research is an outgrowth of Arthur’s interests in the details of the recycling industry: its policies, programs, legislation, materials, history, etc.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a recycler’s paradise, if you will. Out of all the recycling programs in the U.S. that allow residents to mix food scraps with yard debris, about half are within 50 miles of Oakland, CA.

The whole collection and sorting process has been industrialized. When curbside recycling started, you had separate bins for paper, glass and cans. It was a killing job, picking up those totes and tossing stuff in the back of the truck. In 1994, Arthur spent three weeks following recycling trucks in a car, timing drivers with a stopwatch. They were making 450 stops a day.

Mr. Boone is the head of what he calls Oakland’s (CA) volunteer tree planting department. It started in 2009 with a man with a plan and a clipboard; dig a hole, plant a tree, repeat.  Representing the Sierra Club, he stepped up when the City of Oakland tree planting program died due to lack of financing. Arthur is planting trees for today and tomorrow. In eight months alone, he mobilized dozens of volunteers to plant more than 250 trees in neighborhoods and educated homeowners on how to care for the trees. His work is inspiring others to make community improvements, and he is in the process of organizing a Volunteer Tree Department to continue the work.

He is tireless, but also has a great sense of humor. He mobilizes volunteers and handles the behind the scenes work so planting can go smoothly. Trees miraculously appear on planting day, but it takes a lot of work to coordinate the homeowner, City and nursery that supplies the trees. He walks through neighborhoods checking saplings and should a tree look a little low, he reaches out to the resident, “Hey a little more water for your tree, please!”

Most of his current time is spent in recycling as a volunteer. In the past five years, he has done various small research-related projects. He gets paid to teach two or three times a year, but he has a lot to do. If there were professors of recycling, Arthur might well be one, but there aren’t, so Arthur labors on as a practicing (though untenured) scholar.

Advocacy:

  • NCRA Board Member since 1987. President (4 years), Secretary (6+ years) and the Policy/Zero Waste Advocacy Committee Chair (6 years). Principal designer and 20 year instructor of INTRODUCTION TO RECYCLING class for recycling newcomers; Principal lead for RECYCLING UPDATE conference, an innovations-oriented annual conference, started in 1996, retired in 2016 after 30 years of leadership. Zero Waste Advocacy Committee Chair, 2013 – 2016.
  • Board Member, Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, 2005 – 2007.
  • Chair, City of Oakland, Waste Reduction and Recycling Commission, 1990.
  • Board Member, California Resource Recovery Association, 1989 and 2017 candidate.

Career Highlights:

  • Alameda County Fair Consultant. Built a low tech MRF operated by summer help and oversaw marketing of materials, health and safety, work scheduling, etc. 2008 – 2011.
  • Reuse salvage staff, Recology Company, San Francisco. Hired to salvage reusable goods from the public disposal tipping floor at the large transfer station. Packed trailers destined for St. Vincent DePaul in Eugene, Oregon. Weekend Site Supervisor handling customer complaints, site safety, accidents, etc., 1999 – 2003.
  • Project Manager for the first mattress dismantling factory west of Wisconsin and third in the U.S. Developed Oakland worksite, raised startup funds for early operations, marketed salvaged materials and transferred ownership to Federal Prison Industries, 1994 – 1996.
  • Operations Manager, Folsom Return-to-Custody Correctional Facility MRF for the California Prison Industry Authority. Provided materials information for start-up on first dirty MRF built to be run by inmates and correctional staff, 1994.
  • Sort-System Supervisor, East Bay Recycling. Determined suitable loads for sorting in first dirty MRF constructed in the East Bay, 1989.