RU 2019 – Reality Checks and Inspiration

By Jessica Heiges, Master’s Candidate in Environmental Sustainability, UC Berkeley

Yes, there is so much to be done. But instead of framing the state of the matters in defeatist terms, NCRA’s Recycling Update was filled with education, reality checks and most importantly, inspiration. This came from those both on the stage and in the audience. RU, uniquely, not only highlighted some of the recycling collaborations already in place but provided a setting to foster new collaborations. This is important because it is increasingly obvious that no one individual or  ganization or   policy can fix this systems-wide problem. Instead, it is through innovative, multidisciplinary solutions that will chip away at the antiquated practices that have put us in today’s global recycling crisis. It is invigorating and reassuring to see such solutions already in play in Northern California. Yes, there is so much to be done and yes, we are collectively making enormous progress.

One exciting example of innovative, multidisciplinary solutions is the new Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance in the City of Berkeley. The seemingly unlikely partnership of the City Council, the local recycling provider and various non-profits coalesced on the audacious plan to reduce foodware waste generation. It clearly is already a success in that this first-of-its-kind legislation was unanimously approved by the City Council in January 2018. Much of that is likely attributed to the interdisciplinary approach to drafting the legislation, which as Sophie Hahn and Martin Bourque noted in their RU presentation, included involving all potential stakeholders over many years. That is essential, but an uncommon practice and no easy feat. That groundwork will unquestionably set up the ordinance’s phased implementation process for long-term success. As both a resident of Berkeley and a graduate student of waste management at UC Berkeley, I look forward to seeing this systems-based solution cause a meaningful impact.

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