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ILSR’s Waste to Wealth E-Bits — Vol. 3, No. 1

| Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Sep 1, 2002 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at


The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a 28-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes economic development that minimizes environmental damage while maximizing benefits to the local community. Our Waste to Wealth Program offers research, policy development, technical assistance, and public education and outreach on waste reduction and recycling-related economic development.

E-Bits highlights ILSR’s Waste to Wealth Program work, from creating jobs and recycling-oriented enterprises, to recycling policies that close the loop locally, to model waste reduction initiatives. E-bits also includes work performed by the Healthy Building Network (HBN), a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that focuses on promoting safer, ecologically superior building materials as a means toward improving human and environmental health. Welcome to E-Bits!


ILSR’s new 20-page booklet, Innovation, Leadership, Stewardship, features Alameda County’s (California) record-setting recycling programs. The county diverts almost 60% of its municipal solid waste. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board deserve much credit. This glossy booklet — chock full of case studies and photographs — features the Board’s source reduction, reuse, construction material recycling, composting, market development, green building, and outreach initiatives.

To view press release (October, 2002), go to

To download PDF file of the report, go to



Unable to build their polluting and expensive facilities in the U.S. and other industrialized countries, incinerator vendors are peddling their wares in the global south. From Mexico and Puerto Rico to India and Hong Kong, activists are battling planned municipal solid waste facilities and pushing for zero waste approaches. ILSR has a long history of providing technical assistance on non-incineration alternatives. We recently completed a report for Greenpeace China on non-burn opportunities for Hong Kong. The report, Zero Waste: Replacing Waste Management with Discards Management in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, is available as a PDF file on our Web site at

Another report, Resources up in Flames: The Economic Pitfalls of Incineration versus a Zero Waste Approach in the Global South, will soon be available. ILSR researched and wrote this report for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives/Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA). For more information on the report, send an e-mail to Brenda Platt at For more information on GAIA, check out its Web site at



Did you know that 98% of soda containers and 73% of beer containers are refilled in Finland? In Denmark, at least 90% of beverage containers are refilled. In Germany, 75% of beer and soda are offered in refillables. Closer to home in Canada, more than 80% of beer is sold in refillables in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Quebec. In these jurisdictions, policies are in place to require, if not support, refilling.

In the U.S., less than 5% of beverage containers are refilled. We landfill two-thirds of the beverage containers we use. And this disposal trend may be worsening. According to the Container Recycling Institute, the aluminum can recycling rate dropped to its lowest level in 15 years. And containers collected for recycling may be increasingly landfilled as single-stream recyclables collection grows in popularity (in which residents can commingle all recyclables rather than sorting them into two or more categories). Single-stream collection typically results in 15 to 20% of recyclables ending up as residual needing disposal. Why? Largely because of broken glass.

Furthermore, U.S. disposal of precious resources such as aluminum has global implications. Aluminum industry giant, Alcoa, for instance, is planning three huge hydroelectric dams in the Amazon. Instead of supporting reuse and recycling to save energy, the industry is destroying the rainforest and indigenous communities to generate power to support more aluminum production operations.

Indeed not too long ago, Americans had a more efficient way of handling used beverage containers — we refilled them. When compared to one-way containers, refillable containers contribute less to global warming, acid rain, smog, and solid waste. They use less energy and they’re cheaper. U.S. beverage companies offer their products for sale in Europe and elsewhere in refillables. Why not in the U.S.? What policies could be replicated in the U.S.? How can we revive and rebuild the refillable infrastructure?

With partial support from the GrassRoots Recycling Network, ILSR has launched a new Web site to address these issues. Click on the following link to view our Reduce, Reuse, Refill! Web site.

Senator Jeffords Senate Bill 2220, the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002, is the first national legislation to include an incentive for refilling. The bill would establish a 10-cent national deposit on all beverage containers except milk and require the beverage industry to recover 80% of the containers they sell in the U.S. Beverage brand owners would be allowed to achieve a recovery level lower than 80% if they use refillable beverage containers. As a result of the recent election, the bill is not expected to move forward. However, states might consider adopting the bill and strengthening its language to more directly reward refilling over recycling. For more information on how a beverage container bill could provide stronger financial incentives to companies that convert to refillables, see ILSR’s written testimony on Senate Bill 2220 at

If you are interested in joining or supporting a campaign to revive refilling in the U.S., send an e-mail message to Brenda Platt at



Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have introduced policies to make manufacturers take more responsibility for the products and packaging they produce. In Japan, the government has introduced extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies for containers and packaging, and some household appliances. The Japanese legislation is a modified form of EPR that promotes shared responsibility for end-of-life items among manufacturers, importers, retailers, and consumers. EPR strategies adopted by the Republic of Korea government include deposit-refund systems, non-refundable product fees, and design requirements for packaging. The country also uses restrictions on the distribution of disposable goods and eco-labeling to leverage environmentally preferable behaviors amongst manufacturers and importers. EPR policies in place in Taiwan include deposit-return systems, and mandatory product take-backs. Taiwan also uses environmental labeling to encourage manufacturers to design and supply environmentally friendly products. For more information on these initiatives, check out ILSR’s Facts to Act On, release #41, Asian Countries Jump on the EPR Bandwagon, available online at



During the last three decades, the waste hauling and disposal industry has undergone considerable consolidation. Large consolidators have bought out not only many smaller independent firms, but also each other in mega-mergers. When competition disappears, the consolidators will raise prices, gouging local government agencies and businesses. Fortunately, recycling is not only an environmental strategy, but also a strategy for nurturing competition and keeping discard management costs low. ILSR’s latest release in its Facts to Act On series, Fighting Waste Industry Consolidation with Local Ownership of Recycling Facilities (#42, November 2002), examines how recycling — and local or public ownership of recycling facilities in particular — is an insurance policy against a future trash monopoly. Citizen and local government action is needed to guarantee local control of recycling processing operations. To download a PDF file of this Facts to Act On, go to



Although trash transfer stations may make solid waste collection more efficient, the lack of national standards or regulations has allowed for the literal trashing of some urban communities, such as those in Washington, DC. Regulation and lack of enforcement at the local level have resulted in improper siting, which in turn has resulted in congestion, odors, noise, blowing trash and dust, and many other environmental and health problems. In addition, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council has found that trash transfer stations in New York City and Washington, DC, tend to cluster in low-income communities and communities of color.

Many of the negative environmental and health impacts of trash transfer stations can be mitigated through proper facility siting, design, and operation. Best Available Control Technologies for Trash Transfer Stations in the District of Columbia Metro Area, a report by ILSR, outlines the best available control technologies to address trash transfer station concerns and offers suggestions and guidelines for the proper management of trash transfer stations within the District of Columbia. For more information contact Neil Seldman at



Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of commercial and residential buildings for the recovery of the materials for resale. Deconstruction projects and workshops taking place across the country are saving valuable construction materials from the landfill, and providing a pathway to stable, well-paying jobs.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: In May 2002, ILSR hosted the first Deconstruction Managers Workshop, to cover contract sales; photo-documentation sales tools; bid procedures and documents; tax deduction documentation; sub-contractor relationships; publicity and outreach; hazardous materials handling; and operations efficiencies.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: ILSR is working with Mid-Atlantic Consortium of Recycling and Economic Development Officials (MACREDO) to develop a deconstruction element as part of the demolition of 19,000 abandoned and condemned inner-city single-family residences.

Springfield, Massachusetts: ILSR is assisting the Pioneer Valley Community Corporation (PVCC) to establish a deconstruction enterprise in its community.

Roseburg, Oregon: The Umpqua County Community Development Corporation is intensifying its focus on deconstruction to satisfy the high demand for materials at its used building materials yard.

Tacoma, Washington: ILSR and DeConstruction Services (Portland, Oregon) trained seven Tacoma, Washington, workers on deconstruction projects in the Portland area for the Tacoma-based Metropolitan Development Corporation.

For more information on deconstruction and ILSR deconstruction projects, please visit



The Center for Construction and Environment has organized the 11th Rinker International Conference on Deconstruction and Material Reuse, which will take place in Gainesville, Florida, on May 7-10, 2003. The conference will address technical, economical, environmental, and policy-related challenges facing building deconstruction. Conference themes will cover everything from techniques, tools, and reuse opportunities to regulatory, contractual, and policy issues. Visit to find out more and to register for the conference.

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On February 12, 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) announced that the three major manufacturers of chromated-copper-arsenate (CCA), an arsenic-based, wood treatment compound, will cease production and retail sales of the product within two years. (Home Depot and Lowe’s, the world’s two largest home improvement specialty retailers, have announced that they will beat this deadline, replacing CCA wood as adequate supplies of arsenic-free wood become available.) After December 31, 2003, the U.S. EPA will cancel CCA’s federal pesticide registration for this purpose.

The impact of this agreement is tremendous. CCA is the most widely used arsenic-based wood treatment formula, accounting for more than 90% of the $4 billion annual pressure-treated wood market. Retail sales represent 85% of the total market for CCA wood, and about 80% of the total amount of CCA formula applied. The agreement will result in an annual decrease in use, production, and ultimate release of almost 6.4 billion board feet of CCA wood (116 million pounds of CCA solution or 28 million pounds of pure arsenic, virtually all of which is currently imported from China), thereby eliminating the primary source of arsenic exposure for the vast majority of Americans.

For more information and low-cost home arsenic test kits, call the Home Arsenic Testing Hotline at (202) 387-6171 (x240) or visit the Healthy Building Network Web site at



ILSR’s Healthy Building Network (HBN) is now offering Teleconference Training for a Continuing Education Unit curriculum aimed at architects and designers interested in working to build “green” health care facilities. The curriculum was designed as a collaborative with the Health Care Without Harm Coalition and Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility. Registration is available at Learn more about green building and healthcare from



The Fall 2002 issue of the Healthy Building News has just been released and offers perspectives on the future of the healthy building movement from the viewpoint of some of the nation’s leading grassroots environmental activists, who discuss the connection between their work, their communities, and the green building movement. The perspectives provide an update on how communities, environmentalists, building materials manufacturers, and green building professionals are addressing and finding alternatives to the problems presented by Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) production.

New and past issues of the Healthy Building News are now available online or by free subscription at the Healthy Building Network (HBN) Web site



The Healthy Building Network report “Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Building Materials” by Joe Thornton is now available in hard copy editions for $20 each. The report is a continuation of “Pandora’s Poison: On Chlorine, Health and New Environmental Strategy,” which was called “a masterpiece” by Nature Magazine. The latest report presents information on the environmental and health hazards associated with the production, use, and disposal of PVC plastic, commonly known as vinyl. To order, contact



ILSR’s Research Associate Kelly Lease recently departed ILSR for a job as an enforcer at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. She researched and co-authored many technical reports during her five years at ILSR. She will be missed.

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