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.

In Boone’s Words August 2017

PLASTICS FREE JULY SPEAKERS
At a very nice event on Thursday, July 27 at the Ed Roberts Building in Berkeley, The Ecology Center hosted four speakers on plastics and food. The theme for July was PLASTICS FREE JULY and the assembly was the culmination of a variety of events. Carollyn Box from the Five Gyres Science Program (whose founders were early disciples of the beloved Captain Charles Moore) spoke on all the recent data documenting plastics in the ocean, much of it microscopic (90% of the plastics in the ocean are smaller than a grain of sand), much of it becomes like a smog. It’s even scarier when you do autopsies on fish and shellfish. Arlene Blum, research scientist at UCB and head of the Green Science Policy Institute, leads of group of loosely affiliated scientists who study how materials in plastics get into the foodstream with cumulative effects. They have produced six four minute videos on the major problems in this area. Brenda, the Outreach Coordinator of the Plastics Solution Coalition (with which our friend and NCRA member Jackie Perez of The Last Plastic Straw has recently been adopted as a program) identified their goal (with 600 members) to refuse single use plastic and they are now testing an intervention program. Chemicals leach badly out of plastics is the uniform conclusion of all research. Samantha Sommer works for Clean Water Action as the Waste Prevention Program Manager, supporting Chris Slafter as field work director, and they have received grants and contracts to work with food sales facilities to reduce plastic packaging. A very impressive chart on cost savings and ROI time; ending plastics pays. 30-40 people in attendance; a good event. ARB

CHINA ENDS ALL SCRAP IMPORTS ON DECEMBER 31, 2017

Martin Bourque announced at the Plastics session that the government of China had announced that day the end of all scrap imports at the end of this calendar year. This may throw West Coast market advantage for California collected materials in a tizzy but it could also help redevelop basic materials re-manufacturing here in our state. As you know, California is a major importer from other states of all basic materials: paper, glass, metals, plastics and wood. The plastics industry is probably ahead of all of these basic industries (except glass) in developing reprocessors within the state who can convert used goods into new ones. It will be interesting to hear from the brokers who move materials around the world how the Chinese decree will affect our West Coast markets. All those empty sea containers made China an easy market; now what?  ARB

WHO WAS CAPTAIN REDUCER?

Captain Reducer was a cartoon figure populating THE RECYCLER,  an occasional publication of the Campus Recycling Program at Humboldt State University, from at least 1991 where he gave advice of wasting less and recycling more. The Volume 12, #1 of Fall, 1999 of this journal is now in the Urban Ore collection of archival materials; if you have more copies of THE RECYCLER, let ARBoone or Susan Kinsella know how to acquire those copies.

REUSED OFFICE SUPPLIES: Boone is consolidating his workspace and has large supplies of used: file folders, 3 ring notebooks, paper printed on one side only and various other paper goods. Contact him at arboone3@gmail.com with your interests.

Download: San Diego Zero Waste Symposium

By Arthur R. Boone, Center For Recycling Research and Total Recycling Associates
The only other one-day, recycling-centered, educational event in California besides ours is the Zero Waste Symposium held in San Diego, this year at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in SE San Diego. Laura Anthony, daughter to Rick, is the program coordinator and 20 people each get 15-20 minutes to tell what’s “new and different” in their work; over 100 in attendance with a good lunch provided by Kitchens for Good.  I missed six of the speakers but there were a few gems worth noting. All of the presentations are now on line and retrievable. Definitely an upbeat day.

The US Business Council for Sustainable Development, headquartered in Austin, Texas, has started a “Materials Marketplace,” with its proprietary database making 176 transactions in two years between sending and receiving firms. State agencies in Ohio and TN are trying to start local versions of what sounds like what Bert Ball has done with LA Shares but has not yet been replicated elsewhere.

Darcy Shiber-Knowles from Dr. Bonner’s Company in Vista that makes soaps with imported materials (like coconut oil) gave a detailed explication of the virtue of fair trade principles and practices that assure the money gets to the little people in the sending countries.

Marina Kasa with Sony Electronics in Rancho Bernardo discussed the company’s goal of zero waste by 2050 with five year plans. Excellent talk; shrinking packaging is a big item for them. In response to a question about how Amazon seems to put the smallest item in the  biggest box, she said there have been meetings and that concern is on Amazon’s agenda now.

Briefer Notes: A small brew-pub gets spent grains to a pig farmer for animal feed. Powdered concrete from sawing operations can be fed into new concrete batches at a 1-2% of volume rate (similar to using fine grind old tires in retread making  mixes). Sustainable Surplus Exchange in Vista (about to change their name to REUSE4GOOD) mirrors the work of the Bay Area reuse depots but is open only on a few fixed days per year for teachers and others to come. J. Michael Huls, now an adjunct prof at Santa Monica City College, reminded us that the USA with 3% of the world’s population consumes 30% of the world’s resources. Reina Pereira from City of LA told of their new seven contracts for commercial collections ending the reign of 30 independent haulers; still waiting to see how this plays out – 65,000 accounts in America’s second largest city.

Five Sessions On The Bottle Bill

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

In late January and early February, the CalRecycles leaders and Graciela Castillo-Kriegs from the governor’s office held a series of meetings in the Governor’s office council room on topics related to the bottle bill.

 

The department sees it has a “structural deficit” which is paying out more than comes in and is searching for ways to change that. What is not on the table is reducing staff (grumpy looks when I suggested that), better police work on out-of-state imports (they think they’re catching lots of the crooks), improved auditing of the money in/money out chain to prevent graft and corruption in a one billion dollar cash flow operation (despite some very polite language from one person from the Can Manufacturers Institute saying that “the department has less than a 100% auditing function.” The idea of taking the $100 per day fines that the non-compliant grocery stores were paying to support CZ recyclers went unappreciated.

 

The elephants in the room, largely unnoticed (although my hearing is sufficiently poor in large rooms like this with no audio amplification that I missed a lot) were the large benefits given to curbside programs ($129 million per year) and other programs gifted by the legislature when reported redemption rates were much lower. These are now sacred cows not to be messed with.

 

There’s an old saw in Sacramento that if you’re not at the table, you will be part of the lunch. This was clear towards the end of the fifth session when everyone jumped on the idea of holding back some of the redemption fees to large collectors who sell more than 100 pounds (or some other number) of anything at a time; since they’re not the consumers of those volumes, it’s not their nickel that is being removed from the table. Interesting to me, coming from Oakland where the indigenous poor are major collectors, those folks were not at the table in any room filled with suits and white people.

 

My biggest disappointment (since I expected the suits to champion the status quo) came towards the end of the fifth session when the Pepsi spokesman asked what had become of a previous request from stakeholders (August 2016 by his reckoning) that the department assess what is going on in other states and countries with deposit legislation. Christine Hironaka, CALRECYCLES’ Assistant Director of Policy Development, who was also overseeing the speakers’ roster, said in an off-hand way that “a deposit system is a good way to get high collection rates,” and let it go at that. Six months and 700 staffers and they can’t do any better than that? Not “We have a twenty page report with ten things we’re never done here in California for consideration.” Unless staff pays attention to your input, why go to these meetings? Unless you’re paid, of course, to make sure nothing inimical to your employer’s interests is being considered. But that was, to me at least, a real kissoff to the people who care.

 

In my opinion, real reform of the bottle bill as currently practiced in California will not come from the department or the Governor’s office; it will come from the little people of the state and their advocates who like to drink covered beverages and want their nickels back. But I also thought that some of the fat cats in the room are tired of all the talk and a ready to support some major changes. As one old-timer remarked, “The bottle bill was passed in 1986; that’s a generation ago; maybe it’s time for some new ventures.” Not from the people in that room unless we start all over again.

 

Arthur R. Boone is a former NCRA president and was many years a boardmember; he was not re-elected in 2017 and did not identify himself as a NCRA spokesperson at these meetings.