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.

What’s Next ARB?

AR Boone Wrapper Necklace 11 2015
Arthur R. Boone

By Tom Wright,, 1/14/16

Editor’s Note: Arthur Robinson Boone joined NCRA in the summer of 1983 and has been a continuous and active member for 33 years. He served as President in 1987 and again from 2011 -2013 and Secretary for at least 10 years in between. He founded the very popular Recycling Update (RU) in 1995 and managed it well until stepping down in 2013. One of NCRA’s primary teachers, he produces Introduction To Recycling (ITR) two times a year and would like to do a redux of Nature of Materials. He continues as the chair of the Zero Waste Advocacy Committee (ZWAC). In honor of all that Arthur does or has done for NCRA, Tom Wright stepped up to interview him for the NCRA News. Read More “What’s Next ARB?”

Boone Is Practicing HABU!

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

As NCRA’s longest-serving board member, it is my internally-generated task to always adhere to the highest standards of waste avoidance and zero discards to landfills.

This commitment requires near-tortuous attention to details and continuous practice of “highest and best use” [HABU], an almost ritualistic attention to personal discarding practices. As with the Jewish custom of “eating Kosher” that requires knowing the history of anything that you put in your mouth, living a HABU life requires knowing where this small piece of creation will end up when you are finished using it.

I have on my desk now five small items, 1) a rubber band, 2) a pebble, 3) a paper clip, 4) a blue Lego, and 5) a green piece of a plastic bottle cap. It would be feasible to put items 1 and 2 in the green bin, and items 3, 4, and 5 in the mixed recyclables bin as metals and rigid plastics. But practicing HABU means that item 1 goes in my rubber band container for reuse, the pebble goes in the tubes we use to create water courses in newly-planted trees, the paper clip goes in its desk-top container, the Lego gets aggregated with other Legos found on the street for delivery to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, and the plastic chip goes in my special bag of rigids going to a drop off center so as not to get lost in the 9% residue that the curbside program gives itself while allowing me to put plastics in my curbside bin and fails to mention its residue which goes on to the landfill.

HABU’s details are time-consuming, maybe not the best use of my time but seem to be required by the dictates of Zero Waste. Any comments? ARB

Boone: Sorry Mr. Tierney

By Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research, Berkeley, 10/8/15

Dear Editors:

In the years prior to 1970, the United States spent billions of dollars developing a waste removal system that was comprehensive, relatively inexpensive, and much admired. Recycling existed in scrap industry work, mostly with metals, papers, and some glass, and paid for itself.

In 1970, the first Earth Day brought to the general public’s attention the fact that much of what was treated as wastes were in fact recyclable materials. In the general scheme of things, clean air and clean water issues were more important but a hardy band of do-gooders developed with little government assistance a national network of donation centers (4,000 by 1980) where ordinary folks with small quantities of recyclable cans, bottles and newspapers (also cardboard boxes) could aggregate their materials and feed them into the existing recycling network.

In 1976 the aluminum beverage can hit the market and touted the notable high cash value of its materials and another network, this of cash-for-cans developed. Money, not do-gooding, was in play.

In the same era various operators of do-good operations realized that their market penetration was weak and that the convenience of household pick-ups would be necessary to get the less-committed to participate in the recovery of those cans, bottles, and newspapers. From these people, (mostly in college towns: Berkeley, Boulder, Ann Arbor, Madison, Palo Alto, etc.) curbside collection programs began, but by 1985, only about 20 were operating.

While the federal government acted on Clean Water and Clean Air legislation in 1970, it was 1976 before the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was adopted and that law, despite its noble intentions, quickly got bogged down in fifteen year battles on the regulations for landfill operations and defining hazardous wastes (which would require designated materials to be segregated from garbage and more expensive management programs).

So, starting in 1984 in New Jersey, an uncoordinated campaign of the states began writing so-called “rate and date” laws, calling on the existing local communities and the existing waste industries to reduce the materials flowing to landfills by a certain amount (the rate) by a certain date (the date). Over the next ten years about 25 states enacted such laws.

The system first thought to deliver these reductions was to be incinerators, now coupled with electrical generation and called waste-to-energy plants. Here in California 38 facilities got to the planning stages but only three were built. The high cost of construction, questionable air impacts, the destruction of materials, etc. led the public to reject these plans in many communities.

Like the early days of the AIDS epidemic where there was only one drug to fight the disease, curbside programs emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the go-to option for local governments to “reduce wastes.” In the ten years between 1984 to 1994, the number of programs sponsored by local governments around the country went from 20 to 2,000.

But it was easy to diss these attempts. Residential wastes were usually 30% of the total (most stuff comes from businesses and industry), participation rates were commonly below 50%, and the targeted materials were at best 30% of weekly discards (none of these early programs looked at yard and food debris, plastics, etc.), so the volume of materials quickly became 30% of 50% of 30% or what to some was a laughable 5% of what had normally been collected as wastes. The cities sponsoring these programs typically did not set up the social infrastructure to support these costly collection programs and public support was weak and poorly reinforced.

Now, twenty years later, these curbside collection program have limped along, battered by their critics as expensive boodoggles for the feel-gooders. But in a number of communities the original curbside collection program was just the beginning of a much more sophisticated program that now looks like three carts, one of cans, bottles and papers, one for all materials that will rot (yard, food and soiled paper, often called “organics”), and the balance going in a trash cart. Two bin collection trucks allow three carts to be served by two routes (cutting collection costs), and in many households over 75% of the weight of the weekly discards go out for recycling and composting. Sorting in the residence is minimal and up to 85-90% of the residents use the system. Here in northern California the compost is desired in ag applications to reduce water use and replace (somewhat) ever-more-costly fertilizers.

Sorry Mr. Tierney doesn’t seem to know about these successful programs.