Solid waste management update
Maryland just released the draft of the state's Zero Waste Plan, with aggressive goals for significant diversion and reduction within the waste stream by 2040. The plan has 56 action steps. Steps include banning unrecyclable materials, 90% diversion of food waste, and significant take up of recycling in multiunit buildings.
In an editorial, the Carroll County Times recommends that counties begin adopting the action steps that make sense for them ("Plan to reduce waste").
Note that I have recommended that center cities develop differentiated waste management policies for the urban vs. sub-urban sections. For example, we live in a less dense part of the city with a relatively big lot and treess compared to rowhouse neighborhoods, so we generate a lot of "yard waste." See "A way for DC to begin adding yard waste collection as a separate element of waste collection and reduction programming" and "Urban/community composting,"
But rather than "throw it in the trash," we compost on site, including food wastes. Excluding recycling, we generate about 10 gallons of "trash" or less every 10 days to two weeks.
But households in our neighborhood are given 96-gallon trash cans.
Good Magazine had an interesting article about waste reduction efforts in Taiwan ("Yes, Richer Countries Produce More Waste. But Do They Have To?"), which are amongst the best in the developed world. Residents have to buy specifically colored bags and rather than put "trash" in cans for later pickup, trucks come to neighborhoods each night to various pre-arranged pick up points and residents bring their trash to the truck.
Note that the book Green Metropolis about the environmental impacts of cities points out that New York City uses less energy and generates less trash per capita than any other community in the US.
Birmingham, UK has major budget issues because they city has to pay a £1 billion legal judgement concerning a history of unequal pay for women (another big difference from the US...).
Now that the city has to reduce costs and sell assets to pay the judgement, they have big problems with waste removal because unions have been striking and working to rule, because they don't want the system to be privatized, which if it occurred, would reduce costs.
One of the fees the city imposed last year was a £35 annual fee for "green waste" ("Birmingham garden tax price slashed for 2015," Birmingham Mail) which is now collected separately and composted.
But like my recommendations for DC, the city could develop differentiated policies and many households could compost on-site for free.
DC. The DC Environmental Network reports ("DC Council Takes a Step Towards Zero Waste!") on DC's efforts in this area. DC was an early adopter">Why a Bag Tax Works Better Than a Reusable Bag Bonus," Wall Street Journal). Now the city has banned certain unrecyclable materials, like styrofoam, and has mandated the development of a zero waste master plan, not unlike the Maryland effort.
And DC Department of Parks and Recreation is implementing a community compost program at community gardens, where trained "members" in the program can compost their food and yard wastes.
The thing is because the State of Maryland has certain mandates on counties for waste reduction, and a waste reduction authority that works with multiple jurisdictions, they are ahead of DC right now. For example, Montgomery County's information materials and support for composting is years ahead of DC.
Although the DC Water and Sewer Authority has recently put into place energy generation and waste reduction processes that have made a tremendous difference for that organization ("D.C. Water adopts Norway's Cambi system for turning sewage into energy and fertilizer," Washington Post), and proves that DC can be innovative in this area.
National standards needed. Still, with regard to packaging and unrecyclable materials and package notices, it would be better to legislate at the national level certain standards concerning packaging, such as banning styrofoam peanuts (plastic bags with air or paper are equally good packaging materials) and requiring food manufacturers to label whether or not paper-based packages are compostable (and to work to develop 100% compostable packaging).
Europe does this more than the US. Because manufacturers are tasked with the responsibility for recycling items at the end of their useful life, products are designed for recycling at the outset.
Brighton & Hove UK "One Planet" Master Plan. I was reading up on Brighton, England because it is the only local government run by the Green Party, which is proving problematic for a variety of reasons, including internecine factions concerned with ideological purity ("Have the Greens blown it in Brighton?," but cf. "The Green party surge – and why it's coming from Bristol," Guardian).
But one of the plans they produced is definitely based on out of the box thinking. Typically, per capita consumption of resources in developed nations is 2.5 times greater than global carrying capacity.
The One Planet Living plan commits the city to working towards a consumption level where per capita consumption is equal to world carrying capacity, requiring significant reductions in the use of a wide variety of natural resources and finished goods.