A Review of Peak Plastic

A REVIEW OF PEAK PLASTIC: THE RISE OR FALL OF OUR SYNTHETIC WORLD, JACK BUFFINGTON, PRAEGER, 2019
By Neil Seldman, Waste to Wealth Initiative, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Washington, DC, 5/25/19

A long-term NCRA collaborator, Seldman also serves as co-chair of the Save the Albatross Coalition with Captain Charles Moore of Algalita Marine Research and Education.

Editor’s Note: Click for a PDF Version of this review or a free SANET download of Peak Plastic

Hourly, it seems, an email arrives with fresh news about the planetary crisis posed by plastic production and waste. The earth’s ocean, a source of life, is turning into seas of plastic waste, floating bits of disposed packages and microscopic particles as the plastic breaks apart. Invasion of the entire biosphere is now a reality. “We are no longer looking at a plastic ocean,” says Captain Charles Moore of Algalita Marine Research and Education, “we are now talking about plastic fish and plastic people.”[1] The issue is being addressed by federal agencies such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (part of the Department of Commerce), foundations such as the Ocean Conservancy, and international environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, the Global Anti Incineration Alliance, and the Save the Albatross Coalition – a campaign of Zero Waste USA.

The U.S. Congress held hearings on April 30 to explore Emerging Technologies in Plastics Recycling and the technology gaps that drive up the cost of recycling that fall on municipalities and businesses. The Center for International Environmental Law calculates that in 2019, plastic production and incineration will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — the equivalent of pollution from 189 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants. In addition, other scientists point to increased methane releases as photodegradable plastic breaks down more readily in sunlight. Even the American Chemistry Council, a trade association representing U.S. chemical companies, concedes the need for “fostering the transition to “zero waste.” Fortune 500 companies that formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste have pledged $1.5 billion to address the problem.

Plastic pollution issues engulf the Chinese economy as well. The 2017 National Sword Policy, China’s ban on imports of certain mixed recyclables, was in large part a response to the outcries against the primitive plastic recycling system, which moved materials from ports to rural areas for ‘processing’ that contaminated soil and water and damaged the health of those engulfed in plastic smog from the burn-off of residual materials. Videos of ocean plastic pollution have also aroused the Chinese public.

A Comprehensive Solution?
There is no comprehensive path forward to stop the pollution and prevent future contamination so that the world’s vital support systems can recover.

Jack Buffington, a supply chain expert, offers an approach in his book Peak Plastic that integrates the synthetic world of plastic with the natural world by placing once-used plastic back into production supply chains.[2] He lays out the prospect of sustainable local economies, with plastic materials and nature living side by side. Proper use and reuse of plastics can lead to a decentralized economy, a boon to urban ghettos in the U.S., Asia, and Africa, as well as to rural Chinese villages suffering from plastic smog, water pollution, poverty, and poor health. He looks to “innovators, or those companies and government officials who will turn plastic waste into economic viability within a private enterprise model…for the betterment of communities,” as engines of change.

Is this vision technically and economically feasible using the five-step program Buffington presents? Is it politically feasible? Will it take an international mobilization, a grass roots political ‘levee en masse’ to engage industry, elected officials, and policy managers to make fundamental change to business as usual?

Business as Usual is Not Acceptable
Business as usual means uncontrolled production of virgin plastic, even as less than 10% of plastic produced is recycled or reused. It also means recognizing the positive benefits, in fact essential benefits, of plastic products in our daily lives and in the economy. Buffington estimates that by 2030 the earth will reach Peak Plastic, that is, when the marginal benefit of plastic use to society will be less than its detrimental cost to the environment. We are clearly running out of time if he is even close to being accurate.

How Could Something So Good Be So Bad?
Over a few generations, Buffington points out, plastic use has become a “marketing marvel and, at the same time, a planetary crisis.” Since just prior to World War II, annual plastic use has grown from 2 million tons to 380 million tons today.

Buffington pays due homage to beneficial attributes of the material named after the Greek word for “to mold to a form.”

The World War II effort led to a 300% increase in production, making it an essential ingredient for winning the war as other materials fell into short supply. Plastic products were used in health care, clothing, transportation, building materials, packaging, to extend the shelf life of food, and to feed the post-war consumer economy. “In a surreal sort of way plastic is our modern day superhero, able to defy the laws of nature though 50% lighter than steel and at the same time can be in your body intentionally as a stent to open blocked arteries.”

Buffington’s description of the dark side of the plastic revolution suggests the dystopia presented in Bookchin’s Our Synthetic Environment.[3] Even as plastic is the material of choice, it is at odds with nature. It does not break down and return to a natural form. It can cross membranes in the body. Resins, additives, stabilizers, anti-static agents, biocides, flame-retardants, plasticizers, all ‘lurk within the polymer,’ and therefore within the human body and food chain, with unknown consequences for public health and the biosphere. Plastic nanoparticles escape into waterways with every laundry load. Plastic indeed is a ’messy innovation’ that has reached the world’s highest peaks and penetrated the deepest crevices in the oceans. It is a modern day well-intentioned Frankenstein, gone haywire. We cannot recycle our way out of the plastic dilemma. The U.S. EPA reports that the 2015 overall U.S. plastic recycling rate was a dismal 9%[4]. Obviously it hardly impacts the supply chain for virgin plastic manufacturing. Plastic production continues to grow as recycling rates stagnate.

Buffington’s Five Step Program
Step 1: Stop the bleeding by making the plastic industry transparent. Government regulators have failed to protect the country from the obvious threats of plastic pollution. Only a fully informed public can mobilize for change. In addition, a worldwide ban on micro beads and glitter must be put in place. Conventional investment in solid waste management can drastically reduce the 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the oceans annually; 60% from only five countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The estimated near-term cost is $5 billion.

Step 2: Introduce a private-public open source/open access for plastic innovators, which can lead to a design revolution in materials and products. This will take enlightened stockholders.

Steps 3 and 4: Replace traditional recycling, which is a distraction,[5] with sustainable polymerization: that is, depolymerization (Step 3) and repolymerization (Step 4).[6] Each city, Buffington foresees, could have small-scale production of its own water and soda bottles, with a closed loop de- and re-polymerization system in place. The term “economy of scale in linear production systems will be a relic of the past….Through a combination of automation, 3-D printing and digital design.” Flint, Michigan will benefit environmentally and economically from a de- and re-polymerization production system, rather than a return to refillable beverage containers, the author avers.

Step 5: Invest in measuring technology so that we can see what we currently can’t. “There must be a push for portable powerful devices to detect and then access for clean up.”

Inconsistencies and Barriers
Peak Plastic provides rational and doable steps to both control the hemorrhaging of plastic into the environment and tame the material so that the natural world and this unique material can live side by side. The rise of open source manufacturing is in sight. Hopes for this future are based on the emergence of an open source system that will inform organized citizens, government agencies and private firms. “3D printing and open source design will definitely be disruptors in the 21st century by many accounts.”[7]

Is Peak Plastic too optimistic about the possibility of change among corporate leaders, considering past bad behavior? Is ‘clean up’ a credible solution once plastics in the ocean start breaking down into minute particles? What are the comparative costs of de- and re-polymerization? And, critically, can progress be made along the lines Buffington favors without a grassroots, bottom-up movement?

The grassroots recycling/anti-incineration/zero waste movement has won the hearts and minds of the country in the past 50 years. This movement led to new rules that established post-World War II recycling in the U.S.: mandatory recycling, minimum content, unit pricing, purchasing preferences, capital accumulation, and investment programs. These rules made recycling part of everyday life in U.S. cities and towns. No fundamental change can occur without the mobilization of this homegrown recycling, anti-incineration, and zero waste constituency.

In fact, this movement, which crosses gender, race, class, and age, has already started to achieve the bans essential to pushing back on the virgin plastic industry. State and local bans on polystyrene, single use food wares (e.g. plastic straws and cutlery), and plastic bags are now common throughout the U.S. Kraft Foods, Aldi, Amcor, and Nestle’ have pledged to have zero waste packaging (reusable, recyclable, or compostable) by 2025. But pledges from Fortune 500 companies have been issued for decades with no implementation. Nothing works like organized pressure from below, as people exert their rights as citizens to change the rules and as consumers who purchase goods.

The Save the Albatross Coalition has supported ‘connect the cap’ legislation in California which will require bottlers to leash bottle caps, which when loose in the sea resemble food and are deadly to albatross chicks. While AB 319 and AB 2779 did not pass the State Assembly last session, the Coalition will work to get this bill introduced again next year. In addition, the Coalition is recruiting local governments to file nuisance lawsuits against brand name companies whose containers, wrappers and bottle caps are found on their beaches. “We are acting locally to solve a global crisis,” said Rick Anthony, a recycling pioneer and chair of the Coalition and the Zero Waste International Alliance. “We have to control this at the home and then at the local level. The protection of our quality of life and sustainability starts with local actions.”

Washington State passed a 0.15% tax on grocery and convenience stores and other retailers on items commonly tossed on the street, i.e. litter. This tax goes into a fund to address all of those items you see littered along the highway and in public spaces. In California, Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080, the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, would reduce unnecessary packaging, cut down our reliance on disposable items, and redesign products to be truly recyclable or compostable. Both of these state bills have passed out of their house of origin and will be considered by the other house later this session.

We Must Make Haste
Private industry is responding to the worldwide plastic pollution crisis. No less than 40 companies in the U.S. and Canada are operating low-grade plastic plants at commercial scale. Another 20 are similarly investing in transformational technologies that depolymerize and then repolymerize plastic waste into high value virgin quality pellets for food grade packaging.

Air Canada started to reduce single use plastic on its flights this year, moving towards the goal of eliminating it altogether. Restaurant chains are beginning to recycle plastic gloves used by food preparers with the glove manufacturer.

Not all ‘innovation’ is positive. Dow Chemical and Hefty companies want to build pyrolysis plants throughout the country to turn low-grade plastics into fuels. Phoenix, AZ just contracted with a company to use similar thermal depolymerization to manage recovered plastics.

Hard work lies ahead. The Hefty Energy Bag hard-to-recycle plastics incineration program – now in Cobb County, GA, Boise, ID, Lincoln, NE and Omaha, NE, is a wake-up call. Of the 40 new companies offering plastic recycling alternatives, 27 are thermal processes, or incinerators. The Baltimore Clean Air Act, written by Energy Justice Network and passed unanimously by the City Council, is an example of one tool to force best available control systems on all plants. Taxes on hard-to-recycle plastics and other packages are needed to increase the cost of wasting for cities and businesses. Outright bans on new virgin plastic capacity are in order, given the global emergency. Reduction in plastic consumption is the key goal here.

We cannot recycle our way out of the plastic conundrum. We have to control its production and eliminate post-consumer waste.

This bottom-up citizen’s push and the current scramble by innovative companies to return reprocessed plastic to the supply chain of commerce can work, but it is not clear if there is time before we reach Peak Plastic in 2030.

Peak Plastic is optimistic that we can, in this short time frame. But only if we transcend the false narrative that pits a growing economy against a cleaner environment, and implement the rules needed to reign in laissez faire plastic production.

Footnotes
[1] See, Moore and Cassandra Phillips, Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans, 2012; Also, Moore, Charles, “Invasion Of The Biosphere By Synthetic Polymers; What Our Current Knowledge May Mean For Our Future” Acta Oceanologica Sinica, April 2019

[2] Buffington, PhD, is Professor of Supply Chain Management at University College and the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. He has ample industry credentials as well, and previously authored The Recycling Myth, Praeger, 2015

[3] Murray Bookchin, Our Synthetic Environment, Harper & Rowe, 1975

[4] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling, Plastics: Material-Specific Data, 2015

[5] For Buffington’s full argument against traditional recycling of plastic see, The Recycling Myth: Disruptive Innovation to Improve the Environment, Praeger, 2015

[6] There are several types of depolymerization including hydrolysis, glycolysis, methanolysis, and thermal (pyrolysis).

[7] Fast Company, Adele Peters, Precious Plastic: These DIY Machines Let Anyone Recycle Plastic Into New Products, 10/7/2017

Thank you 2019 Recycling Update Sponsors!

THANK YOU TO OUR 2019 RECYCLING UPDATE SPONSORS!

Sponsorship makes low-cost tickets and scholarships for Zero Waste Week events possible!

GOLD: City of Fremont, City of Vallejo, StopWasteNapa Recycling & Waste ServicesCity of NapaSan Francisco Department of the EnvironmentHF&H ConsultantsR3 Consulting GroupZero Waste SonomaRethinkWasteMt. Diablo Resource Recovery, County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability

SILVERSCS Engineers, Ecology Center, Gigantic Idea Studio, Zero Waste Marin, Marin Sanitary Service

BRONZEAmador Valley IndustriesPleasanton Garbage ServiceCity of StocktonCRRA, City of Sunnyvale, RecycleSmart, CRRC – Northern District, Stanford Recycling/PSSI, Sure-Close, South San Francisco Scavenger, City of Livermore, Recycle For Change, RecycleMore

The Devil We Know – Film Screening and Panel

The Devil We Know Film and Panel Discussion, The New Parkway Oakland, Thursday, 3/21/19, 6:15-8:30pm

From cosmetics to ski wax, frying pans to waterproof jackets, take-out foodware to stain-resistant fabrics, Teflon-like chemicals are found in hundreds of consumer products — and now in the blood of nearly every American. We invite you to learn more about these chemicals so you can protect yourself and your family, and take action to demand protective policies and safer products. The Devil We Know is a documentary that was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

Event Schedule:

6:15pm   Arrive early to claim your spot and to purchase delicious food and drink!

6:30pm   Screening Begins!

8:00pm   Brief discussion about what you can do!

RSVP and be sure to arrive by 6:15pm to claim your reserved spot. After 6:15pm, seats will be on a first come, first served basis during the screening.

Co-hosted with SFEnvironment, Clean Water Action Oakland, Center for Environmental Health

Recycling Update 2019 Speakers Announced!

Over 20 presenters will inform and inspire the 24th Annual Recycling Update conference.  See our ZWW/Recycling Update page under our Events Tab to register.

Here is our partial 2019 Recycling Update Conference line-up, in alphabetical order:

Peter Schultze-Allen, CPSWQ, QSP/QSD, BFQP, LEED AP – Peter Schultze-Allen is a Senior Scientist at EOA Inc. with extensive experience in the environmental field. He specializes in green stormwater infrastructure, litter reduction, zero waste policy, complete and green streets, sustainable landscaping, and urban forestry practices. His past experience includes two years with Recology in SF, eleven years managing the environmental programs for the City of Emeryville and five years at EOA where he has been providing GI, LID and litter-related technical assistance and program support to municipalities around the Bay Area.

The design of buildings has a large impact on the levels of waste and litter generated during operation. Mr. Schultze-Allen will present a summary of findings from a recent Bay Area report on designing buildings to meet stormwater and zero waste goals.

Jennifer Arbuckle, Recycling and Public Education Manager, Northern Recycling and Waste Services – Jennifer is a Northern California Native, Master’s Degree from CSU Chico in Environmental Geography, been working in the environmental field for the last 17 years, the last 12 being with Northern Recycling and Waste Services as Recycling and Public Outreach Manager.

Jennifer will highlight the statistics and various situations resulting from the unprecedented disaster of the Camp fire.

Timothy Bouldry, Director, ISWA Scholarship Programme –  Timothy photographs and documents open dumpsite activity in developing countries, as well as the communities informally recycling in these areas. He has pointed attention to the topic of environmental and humanitarian injustices for ten years. He currently resides in Nicaragua where he is directing The ISWA Scholarship Programme that provides education to youths that agreed to not return to the dumpsite in order to pursue an education. More info about can be found at TimothyBouldry.com and ISWAkids.com.

Timothy Bouldry will be presenting The ISWA Scholarship Programme that is providing education for 70 youths and parents who are transitioning from a life of informally recycling at a dumpsite in Nicaragua, towards education and planning their futures. Nicaragua has been experiencing a lot of civil unrest due to their administration and the authorities they control. Human rights injustices will also be discussed, along with how politics and corruption affect municipal waste. 

Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center – Since 2000, Martin has led the Ecology Center, a community-based organization incorporated on Earth Day in 1970. Under Martin’s leadership, the Ecology Center is leveraging local direct community service programs to have state and national impact. Martin has spearheaded innovative efforts such as creating a farmers’ market industry group, pioneering electronic food stamp access and incentives at farmers’ markets, and passing the nation’s first Soda Tax. By linking local grassroots grit with highly competent program implementation, and increasingly effective policy advocacy, Martin has led the Ecology Center to become a high impact engine for change.

Kourtnii Brown, Founder, Common Compost – Kourtnii is an environmental policy analyst and worm composting enthusiast, and the founder of Common Compost in Oakland, California.  Her idea for a community compost cooperative won the Living the New Economy’s Hackathon in November 2014, from which she received entrepreneurship support to launch a 3-year compost pilot project with funding from local grants and partnerships throughout the Oakland farm-to-fork community. She currently serves as a compost policy consultant to the Sustainable Economies Law Center and is also the Steering Committee Chair of the California Alliance for Community Composting.

The Ins and Outs of Community Composting – Community composting is an important facet of a diverse composting infrastructure and provides education to help catalyze larger scale municipal efforts. Kourtnii Brown, policy consultant with the Sustainable Economies Law Center, will address what policymakers and stakeholders can do to support community-scale composting efforts in terms of identifying legislative definitions, best management practices, and regulatory exemptions that standardize and ensure well-operated community composting sites. The presentation will provide a short overview of the legal and policy trends impacting each stage of the composting process, including 1) organic material generation, 2) hauling, 3) composting, and 4) distribution of compost.

Maricelle Cardenas, Community Outreach and Education Specialist, StopWaste – Maricelle is a community educator who has supported various education and outreach projects at StopWaste since 2010 and Jeanne Nader Program Manager, StopWaste – Jeanne runs the Community Based Outreach Project, which includes SWEET. Previously, Jeanne led the Master Composter training and residential outreach on sustainable gardening. She has been a Program Manager at StopWaste since 2001. Her background is in environmental education and community organizing.

SWEET – StopWaste Environmental Educator Training – StopWaste staff, Jeanne Nader and Maricelle Cardenas, will present the story of SWEET – an innovative and nimble train the trainer model that certifies Alameda County residents as environmental educators and community connectors. Jeanne will provide an overview of the SWEET training goals and nuts and bolts. Maricelle will share how StopWaste and SWEET grads have leveraged the Food Waste Reduction program focus into community outreach, education and mobilization opportunities.

Joshua Perez-Cramer, Operator, Independent Recycling Services – Joshua is the Operator of a Construction & Demolition Facility in East Oakland, who has been working in the environmental industry for the past five years, starting out working for a Solar Company as well as selling Energy Efficient Home Improvements. He is also an Environmental Educator with Stopwaste and enjoys volunteering with NCRA and Zero Waste Youth Events.

Josh will be discussing experiences working with different departments and jurisdictions; the pro’s & con’s with C&D Regulations and working with several departments; hauling vs. processing- source separation; education and community outreach; and the importance of 3rd party verification.

Lisa Duba, Principal, Gigantic Idea Studio – Lisa is a founder and principal at Gigantic Idea Studio, Inc in Oakland, California. She has worked to promote environmental programs and behaviors since 1995. Her work includes campaign planning, messaging and creative concepts in the areas of waste reduction, recycling, and pollution prevention. Current and past clients include City of Palo Alto, Livermore, Oakland, County of Santa Clara, and the Clean Water Program Alameda County.

Outreach Campaigns to Combat Curbside Contamination – Global markets require recycling feedstocks that are significantly cleaner than what’s typically collected curbside in the blue cart. Municipalities are responding with outreach to address wish-cycling and proper preparation of recyclables. Stefanie will share two campaigns created for two Bay Area cities.

Roland Geyer, Professor, UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management – Prior to joining the Bren School Roland held research positions in Germany, France, and the UK. Since 2000 he has worked with a wide range of governmental organizations, trade associations, and companies on environmental sustainability issues. In his research he uses the approaches and methods of industrial ecology, such as life cycle assessment and material flow analysis, to study pollution prevention strategies based on reuse, recycling, and material and technology substitution. Roland has a graduate degree in physics and a Ph.D. in engineering.

Making Recycling Work – Reuse and recycling have the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impacts of industrial production, but suffer from widespread misunderstandings and have so far fallen short of their promise. This presentation will discuss how common misconceptions about recycling have been preventing it from reaching its full environmental potential and explore strategies to change this.

James Green, Founder, FixmyKix – James Green is a 19-year-old African American born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Ca. His passion for sneakers and entrepreneurship led him to found FixmyKix.  FixmyKix is a mobile marketplace app for the service of sneaker restoration and customization to be bought and sold, to promote artistic entrepreneurship among young people and to reduce shoe waste in our landfills. James believes Entrepreneurship transforms lives and founded FixmyKix so that sneaker restoration and customization services can be more accessible to all and sneaker artists can now better access their customers.

Patrick Hayes, Recycling Specialist, City of Oakland – Patrick is the Former Director of the California Straw Building Association, and has now worked with the City of Oakland for 18 years, leading development of the C&D Ordinance, and introduced online submittals, developed green building ordinances, and was the Technical lead on the Non-Exclusive Franchise system for C&D. Currently, Patrick is developing a biodynamic farm with blackwater recycling and goats, and his biggest effort is now teaching an 11-year-old how to disregard the box.  

Patrick will outline the highlights of Oakland’s C&D non-exclusive franchise system.

Rob Hilton, President, HF&H Consultants – As President of HF&H Consultants, Rob has provided recycling and solid waste consulting services to more than 150 public agencies across the United States. He has been involved in over 350 projects covering a wide range of strategic, operational, programmatic, contractual, and financial issues. He has already negotiated four franchise agreements that had to anticipate the requirements of SB 1383 before it was complete and has been engaged by several other agencies around the state to develop SB 1383 plans.

It’s Not As Scary As You Thought: How to Start Implementing SB 1383 Programs – SB 1383 is being described as the biggest legislative milestone since the adoption of AB 939. Many jurisdictions across the state (particularly ones without organics collection programs) are anxiously anticipating the final adoptions of SB 1383, but implementing SB 1383 may not be as bad as they think.  This presentation will: Provide a big-picture summary of SB 1383, highlighting requirements that will likely have the biggest impact on local jurisdictions; describe practical steps local jurisdictions can do now to ensure their agencies are SB 1383-compliant; spotlight local governments that have recently adopted or modified franchise agreements to meet SB 1383 requirements.

Jen Jackson, Toxics Reduction & Healthy Ecosystems Programs Manager, San Francisco Department of the Environment – Jen and her team lead a variety of programs and implement policies that reduce toxic pollution and improve environmental and public health, such as an ordinance banning the use of food service ware containing fluorinated chemicals, a first-in-the-nation requirement for grocers to report antibiotic use in meat and poultry production, an award-winning Integrated Pest Management Program, a municipal Green Purchasing Program, an urban biodiversity program, and an extensive residential household hazardous waste disposal program. Prior to joining San Francisco in 2015, Jen worked in wastewater and stormwater pollution prevention for almost eight years in the public sector, and began her environmental career in the non-profit sector at Sierra Club and Save The Bay. Jen earned her master’s degree in Resource Management & Environmental Planning with a focus on water resources.

Fluorinated chemicals are a class of more than 5000 chemicals that are persistent and some have been shown to harm human health. The City of San Francisco is tackling the myriad uses of these persistent organic pollutants, including in food service ware, carpet, furniture, and firefighting foam.

Doug Kobold, Executive Director, California Product Stewardship Council – Doug has worked in the Solid Waste and Recycling industry and “talking trash” for over 26 years.  The past 18+ years, prior to taking the helm as the Executive Director at the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC) in August 2018, were spent at Sacramento County where he held the position of Waste Management Program Manager in charge of the Business Development & Special Waste division. He has served on the Northern California SWANA Chapter Board of Directors as Chapter President and currently serves as Vice Chair on the California Chapters Legislative Task Force (LTF).

With the passage of SB 212 (Jackson, 2018), California will have safe, free, and convenient unused/unwanted medicine disposal options in every county in just a few short years.  SB 212 also creates a requirement for safe return containers to be distributed free of charge with every sharp/needle sold. This presentation will cover the important features of SB 212, an update on the ensuing regulations drafting process, a rough timeline for the roll-out of the statewide program, and other pertinent information.

Gina Lee, Founder, Circular CoLab – Gina is the author of The State of the Circular Economy in America, the first United States focused Circular Economy landscape study which analyzes over 200 Circular Economy initiatives.  Gina has over 15 years of experience working in Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Impact in the United States, China, and Germany.  Her past roles include overseeing partnerships with Fortune 500 corporations and top-tier business schools for the Aspen Institute, working with the Schwarz Group in materials management, and leading programming and corporate relations for Mercy Corps Beijing. She is skilled in engaging with organizations from across the policy, government and private sector and has managed workshops and pilot programs with organizations including TATA, the American Sustainable Business Council, TEDxLA, and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

My presentation will provide an overview of the guiding principles of the Circular Economy and highlight innovative American businesses and organizations that have already built circular solutions.  The presentation will also include trends and challenges facing the development of the Circular Economy here in the states and provide some ideas for moving forward.

Brennan Madden, Senior Consultant, RRS – Brennan’s technical skill set provides economic, modeling, and data analysis to a wide range of clients within our waste recovery, materials recovery facility (MRF), renewable energy, and organics sectors. Brennan’s background is steeped in renewable energy, industrial ecology, and project management, with specialization in life cycle analysis, life-cycle design, integrated assessment, as well as photovoltaic, biodiesel, and anaerobic digestion energy. Brennan has also been integral in refining the TruCycle recyclability/compostability assessment in multiple countries. His expertise includes economic and material feasibility, GIS analyses, as well as tool, database, and model development. Brennan holds an MS in Sustainable Systems and a graduate certificate in Industrial Ecology, both from the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.

Robin Franz Martin, Executive Director, Joint Venture Silicon Valley – Robin came to Joint Venture’s Food Rescue Initiative in 2017 to head the A La Carte pilot program, bringing 20 years of experience in public health and community team building. Most recently she led volunteer building projects for LifeMoves, Bay Area, an organization committed to ending the cycle of homelessness in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

Robin started her career with the NAACP working on urban environmental health issues, later working in Boston at the Education Development Center on national and international public health issues, and as Executive Director of the Central Square Business Association. She also founded a summer camp program for at-risk middle school students, fostering personal and social change through exposure to sustainable agriculture and healthy food options.

Robin will discuss A La Carte, a fleet of refrigerated food trucks that resemble their trendy food truck cousins, but without cooking and washing facilities. Every day the trucks collect surplus edible food from university and corporate campuses and drive directly into neighborhoods where a high concentration of people living with daily food insecurity can have a normal, dignified experience as they select meals free of charge. To alleviate any barriers, no personal information is gathered.

Teresa Montgomery, Sustainability Manager, South San Francisco Scavenger Co.Teresa has over twenty years of experience in the solid waste and recycling field. She has a broad background in marketing and has developed and carried out a number of successful public information campaigns. She has extensive experience in the public and private sectors. From 2005-2015 she worked as the Director of Communications for the Pellegrini group of companies: Alameda County Industries, Garden City Sanitation, Livermore Sanitation, Mission Trail Waste Systems, and SAFE. In 2016, Teresa moved over to the South San Francisco Scavenger Company where she now works as the Sustainability Manager. She also maintains a part-time role at Garden City Sanitation.

Using Magic to Clean up Commercial Organics – During the summer of 2017, Blue Line Transfer added a Scott Turbo Separator to its arsenal of processing equipment. Loads of commercial waste containing a high volume of food scraps, food-soiled paper, and plastic & bioplastic bags are directed to the Scott and magically transformed. A significant amount of material previously sorted manually, sent out for processing, or hauled directly to landfill is recovered for on-site anaerobic digestion. The magic “salsa” created by the Scott allows Blue Line to landfill less, digest more, and increase gas production for their CNG fleet. Win. Win. Win.

Dr. Molly Morse, CEO, and co-founder of Mango Materials – Molly received her Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering–with an emphasis on anaerobic biodegradation of biocomposites for the building industry–from Stanford University, and her B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. Dr. Morse has contributed to multiple patents, publications, and presentations. Along with other Mango Materials team members, she is currently working to up-scale the biomanufacturing technology of using methane gas to produce biodegradable materials.

Molly will be talking about next generation biopolymers and their potential for addressing closed-loop carbon cycles.

Julie Muir, Zero Waste Manager, Peninsula Sanitary Service/Stanford Recycling – Julie Muir works for Peninsula Sanitary Service/Stanford Recycling and has managed Stanford University’s Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Composting Program for the last 25 years.  She leads Stanford University toward a zero waste campus through a rigorous and comprehensive program of waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. She enjoys most working with students and the campus community on waste reduction and educating on the connection between materials management, the economy, and climate change.  Julie Muir is Past-President and current Senior Advisor to the California Resource Recovery Association and Chair of the Zero Waste Campus Council.

Tailgating Zero Waste at the Stanford Stadium – As Stanford University moves towards its goal of Zero Waste by 2030, Stanford’s Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER)  has focused on the adoption of new Zero Waste initiatives to further its commitment to sustainability.  This presentation will present the opportunities and challenges of supporting sustainable tailgating including using new dumpster trailers, green tailgate checklist, and fan engagement. Stanford won the Most Improvement award in 2017 from the PAC 12 Conference’s Zero Waste Bowl for its expanded tailgate recycling and composting initiatives.

Roxanne Murray, Recycling Programs Coordinator, City of San Mateo –  Roxanne has 17 years of experience working in the solid waste field, five years in the private sector as a Recycling Coordinator for Allied Waste and the last 12 years as the City of San Mateo Solid Waste/Recycling Programs Coordinator. Roxanne oversees the City’s solid waste contract with Recology San Mateo County; is responsible for all the City’s waste reduction programs; and works with the City Council, County and South Bayside Waste Management Authority regarding the City’s waste reduction efforts.

Ron Kasper, Recycling Coordinator, City of San Mateo – In Ron’s 33 years with the City of San Mateo, he has served many roles in both the Parks and Public Works Departments. For the past nine years, Ron has been the City’s Recycling Coordinator. The focus of his time at work is tackling the City’s illegal dumping issues. For the past four years, due to Ron’s efforts, they have seen close to a 50% reduction where the City had to take the responsibility for removing illegally dumped debris.

Ron and Roxanne’s presentation will highlight the efforts to reduce illegal dumping over the past few years in our City. Due to these efforts, we have reduced the number of times the City has had to take responsibility for the removal of illegal dumping by close to 50%.

Jerame Renteria, Organics Marketing Specialist, Zanker Road Resource Management – Jerame is a seasoned member of the marketing team with over 6 years of experience focusing on recycled commodities markets and branding for outbound inert/organic products such as Class II Base Rock and Soil Amendment.  Some of his key roles include the managing of installations for recycled landscape products for client projects while maintaining customer relations for more than 1,600 Demolition Contractors, Debris Box Companies, and General Construction Contractors. Jerame works closely with Operations at Zanker Recycling making sure material being recycled is non-hazardous and acceptable in accordance with Zanker’s Class III landfill designation.

Advanced C&D Processing SystemSilicon Valley is known as the land of innovation when it comes to computers and information technology, but few people know that it is also the land of recycling innovation. Case in point: Zanker Recycling’s newest operation, the Advanced C&D Processing System which is using AI technology to sort C&D debris into marketable commodities.  Robots are the driving force of this advancement which will lead the C&D world to its next level.

Susan Robinson, Senior Director of Policy and Sustainability, Waste Management – Susan Robinson is Senior Director of Policy and Sustainability at WM.  Her 30+ years in the industry includes work in the public sector, non-profit environmental work, consultancy, and over 25 years in the private sector.  Susan’s experience includes global commodity marketing, research, and analysis of industry trends, and twenty years managing municipal solid waste and recycling contracts. She currently leads WM’s Sustainability Team.

Over the past three years, using US EPA’s Facts and Figures tonnage data, WM’s national average cost information, and EPA’s WARM tool, WM created a GHG abatement curve for the solid waste and recycling industry.  More recently, we used updated pricing and tonnage information to focus on the recyclables processed at single-stream MRFs to understand the environmental impacts and cost of the materials that we manage. Our goal for this exercise was to understand how we might prioritize our efforts for maximum environmental benefits, and at what cost.

Roberto Sabatini, President, Environmental Novociclo S.A. – Roberto has worked previously with mathematical modeling for flood forecasting at the Working Group on Hydrology and Environment. In 1998, Sabatini founded Ethermidia, one of Brazil’s first internet companies which became a leader in the Santa Catarina market. He also founded EnsinoWeb, a web-based education company, as well as Gincana Premiada, which focused on educational entertainment. Since 2008, Sabatini has been involved with Lixo Zero, a waste management and recycling program for companies, complexes, and communities. He is a member of Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) and serves as the president of Instituto Lixo Zero Brasil. He has a degree in civil engineering from the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

Roberto will discuss the most recents updates in Zero Waste in Brazil.

Steven Sherman, Principal, Steven Sherman Consulting – Steven has worked on organics program planning and implementation–yard trimmings since 1988; food scraps since 1992–as a consultant to local governments, haulers, and processors across the country. He has helped to develop or further the success of several leading municipalities in our field, including San Francisco, StopWaste, Berkeley, Metro (Oregon), the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Portland, and the South Bayside Waste Management Authority. Steven’s skills cover program and project planning, budgeting, and implementation; economic and data analysis; policy evaluation; long-range program planning; survey development; meeting facilitation; staff management and mentoring; contractor selection and contract management; and organizational development. Steven earned an M.S. in Resource Economics from Cornell University and a B.A. in Environmental History from Yale College; he also holds graduate certificates in Financial Planning and in Advanced Indonesian Language. 

Picking Plastics in Paradise: Using Citizen Scientists to Characterize Marine-Borne Plastics in Indonesia — Steven Sherman participated in a citizen science-based initiative, led by the non-profit organization 5 Gyres, to document and characterize plastics in the marine and coastal environment in Indonesia. This presentation addresses the waste characterization methods employed and results found.

Kristin DiLallo Sherrill, Chief Marketing Consultant for California Electronic Asset Recovery, Inc. (CEAR) – Kristin has worked with CEAR for over 11 years. She oversees customer relations and marketing strategies. Kristin has played a vital role in the relationship with many of CEAR’s largest customer acquisitions. She holds her BA in Communications with an emphasis in Environmental Public Relations. Her industry knowledge and customer relations have helped CEAR become a leader in IT Asset Disposition, Data Security and electronics recycling.

Kristin will discuss lithium battery hazards from a recyclers perspective.

Nate Stein, CEO, PS Creations LLC – Nate grew up in the restaurant industry, and his dad moved to California in the 70’s from New York where he attended the Culinary Institute of America. He started off with a bagel company that he sold to Otis Spunkmeyer and then moved into Delis and restaurants and then finally having a catering company. And that’s where it all started for Nate. 3.5 years ago Nate was working a 300 person wedding event and had over 600 plates he needed to wash…from those plates the Platescrape innovation was born.

Nate will discuss Platescrape’s journey and how it can influence California.

We Cannot Recycle Our Way Out Of Plastic Pollution

By John Douglas Moore, Co-Chair, NCRA Zero Waste Advocacy Committee

Please watch the 15 minute segment of Sunday, January 3’s edition of “60 Minutes” which first focused on Boyan Slat’s enterprise to clean-up large ocean plastic gyres by using a large net to collect it, and then segued to the global problem of plastic pollution, painting a pretty grim picture.

The show did not question Slat about what he intended to do with the collected plastic and gave a light brush to any current performance flaws in the technology. China’s National Sword was highlighted as impacting plastics recycling but did not address impacts on collected contaminated paper, cans, and bottles, and did not confront the big lie of single stream collection long advocated by monopolistic trash haulers.

An intelligent adult watching the show asked me “does this mean my plastic Starbucks cup does not get recycled when I put it in the store’s recycling bin?”

Lest you have any doubt that we cannot recycle our way out of plastic pollution and need to up our efforts to reduce plastic use and pollution, please watch this show segment. […]