At the end of their useful lives, the products and materials we use should become the nutrients and ingredients of new products and materials in a waste-free cycle mimicking those found in the rest of the natural world. That’s just common sense and uncontroversial, isn’t it? Probably most Transitioners are proponents of ‘cradle to cradle’ design and the ‘circular economy’. Those that aren’t would be, once they’ve been exposed to those ideas.
I was quite surprised when I went to my first Transition Town Shrewsbury Hub meeting at how many projects there were to do with waste. My previous Transition experience had led me to believe that very few people were really that interested in waste, except for the possibility of upcycling it into something else. My time in Shrewsbury has already proved how wrong I was…
Post Carbon Fellow Sandra Postel recently gave a talk on ‘Will We have Enough Water? Adapting to a Warming, Water-Stressed World’ for the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources.
•Britain’s nuclear powered trains •Fukushima: Fallout of fear •On second thought: IAEA re-categorizes the operational status for 47 of Japan’s nuclear reactors •’Nuclear waste? No thanks,’ say Lake District national park tourism chiefs •It’s time to reprocess spent nuclear fuel •Tokyo Electric Sued by U.S. Sailors Exposed to Radiation •Experts okay restart of worrisome Belgian nuclear plants •China blazes trail for ‘clean’ nuclear power from thorium
•Jeremy Irons talks trash for his new environmental documentary – TRASHED •Sweden turns trash into cash as EU seeks to curb dumping •Suffocating The World
An urbanizing world requires major policy initiatives to make urban resource use compatible with the world’s ecosystems. Metropolitan Adelaide has adopted this agenda and is well on its way to becoming a pioneering regenerative city region. New policies by the government of South Australia on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, zero waste, organic waste composting, water efficiency, wastewater irrigation of crops, peri-urban agriculture, and reforestation have taken Adelaide to the forefront of eco-friendly urban development. Working as a thinker in residence in Adelaide in 2003, I proposed linking policies to reduce urban eco-footprints and resource use with the challenge of building a green economy.
A few months ago I was working on an article about San Francisco’s pioneering efforts to become the world’s first zero-waste city by 2020.
Chronicling this journey toward a current nation-leading 78 percent waste diversion rate, a major focus of the story was on the city’s mandatory composting program that has played a huge role in keeping over a million tons of food scraps, plant trimmings, soiled paper, and other compostable materials from clogging up landfills and releasing methane.
It wasn’t until after the story was published that I was alerted to the most remarkable and possibly game-changing discovery about urban compost: its potential to offset 20 percent and perhaps as much as 40 percent of America’s carbon emissions.
The disposal of product “wastes” in America has seen an exponential increase in quantity in the past century. In a mere one-hundred years they’ve grown from only 92 pounds of throw-away trash per person per year to a staggering 1,242 pounds per person per year. Do the math on that for yourself.
In response to a European Union directive to divert waste from landfills, local governments across the continent have had to come up with ways to meet the target goals or else face large fines. In France, the microscopic town of Pincé (population: 206) has come up with a particularly creative and logical solution: Backyard chickens for all.
During the 20th century an indispensible yet unrecognized factor allowed the health sciences to attain dizzying levels of organizational complexity and achieve countless life saving and prolonging breakthroughs. The health professions drew upon ever-increasing amounts of human and natural resources, particularly energy…Therefore, the complexity of modern health systems and their accomplishments are an epiphenomenon of economic expansion made possible first and foremost by natural resources; only secondarily are they reflections of capital and labor expressed through human intelligence, drive and ingenuity. The era of cheap and plentiful energy is over and this has profound implications for the health sciences and modern world.
This is a written version of the talk that I gave at the “ASPO-2012” meeting in Vienna, on May 31 2012. It describes my experience with waste management as a way of closing the industrial cycle and attaining long term sustainability. Here, I introduce the concept of “urban gleaning”, a high efficiency way of dealing with waste.
You’ve heard of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s 900 users exchanging gossip and other personal pleasantries or worries through a medium that inflates narcissism. You’ve probably not heard of Ben Rose of the New York City Materials Exchange Development Program (NYC MEDP) or the equivalent organizations in your communities providing services to thousands of charitable non-profit groups which promote the donating and reusing of materials to avoid incineration, landfilling and recycling.