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World’s Waste Potential

Beyond Recycling: On the Road to Zero Waste
by Beverly Bell
From Nation of Change
3 November 2012

Zero waste is both a goal and a plan of action. The goal is to protect and recover scarce natural resources by ending waste disposal in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. The plan encompasses waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse, changes in consumption habits, and industrial redesign. The premise is that if a product cannot be reused, composted, or recycled, it just should not be produced in the first place.

Just as importantly, zero waste is a revolution in the relationship between waste and people. It is a new way of thinking about safeguarding the health and improving the lives of everyone who produces, handles, works with, or is affected by waste — in other words, all of us.

Zero waste strategies help societies to produce and consume goods while respecting ecological limits and the rights of communities. The strategies ensure that all discarded materials are safely and sustainably returned to nature or to manufacturing in place of raw materials. In a zero waste approach, waste management is not left only to politicians and technical experts; rather, everyone impacted — from residents of wealthy neighborhoods to the public, private, and informal sector workers who handle waste — has a voice.

Practicing zero waste means moving toward a world in which all materials are used to their utmost potential, in a system that simultaneously prioritizes the needs of workers, communities, and the environment. It is much like establishing zero defect goals for manufacturing, or zero injury goals in the workplace.

Zero waste is ambitious, but it is not impossible. Nor is it part of some far-off future. Today, in small towns and big cities, in areas rich and poor, in the global North and South, innovative communities are making real progress toward the goal of zero waste. Every community is different, so no two zero waste programs are identical, but the various approaches are together creating something bigger than the sum of their parts: protection of the earth and the natural riches which lie under, on, and over it. Here are a few examples of what is working:

* Through incentives and extensive public outreach, San Francisco has reduced its waste to landfill by 77 percent — the highest diversion rate in the United States — and is on track to reach 90 percent by 2020;

* A door-to-door collection service operated by a cooperative of almost 2,000 grassroots recyclers in Pune, India — now part of the city’s waste management system — diverts enough waste to avoid 640,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually;

* Aggressive standards and incentives for both individuals and businesses in the Flanders region of Belgium have achieved 73 percent diversion of residential waste, the highest regional rate in Europe;

* In Taiwan, community opposition to incineration pushed the government to adopt goals and programs for waste prevention and recycling. The programs were so successful that the quantity of waste decreased significantly, even as the population increased and the economy grew;

* An anti-incinerator movement in the Spanish province of Gipuzkoa led to the adoption of door-to-door waste collection services in several small cities, which have since reduced the amount of waste going to landfills by 80 percent;

* In the Philippines, a participatory, bottom-up approach has proven that communities have the ability to solve their own waste management problems;

* A focus on organics in Mumbai, India and La Pintana, Chile has produced real value from the cities’ largest and most problematic portion of municipal waste;

* In Buenos Aires, Argentina, grassroots recyclers focused on cooperatives and took collective political action. As a result, the city began separating waste at the source, an essential step toward its goal of 75 percent diversion by 2017.

While few locations are bringing together all the elements of a comprehensive zero waste plan, many have in common a philosophy driven by four core strategies:

1. Moving away from waste disposal: Zero waste moves societies away from waste disposal by setting goals and target dates to reduce waste going to landfills, abolishing waste incineration, establishing or raising landfill fees, shifting subsidies away from waste disposal, banning disposable products, and other actions. Government policies that promote these interventions are strongest when they incentivize community participation and incorporate the interests of waste workers.

2. Supporting comprehensive reuse, recycling, and organics treatment programs: Zero waste is about creating a closed cycle for all the materials we use — paper, glass, metals, plastic, and food among them. Such a system operates through separating waste at its source in order to reuse, repair, and recycle inorganic materials, and compost or digest organic materials. Separate organics collection ensures a stream of clean, high-quality material which in turn enables the creation of useful products (compost and biogas) from the largest portion of municipal waste.

3. Engaging communities: Zero waste relies on democracy and strong community action in shaping waste management. A lengthy initial consultation process can pay off with better design and higher participation rates. Residents must actively participate in the programs by consuming sustainably, minimizing waste, separating discards, and composting at home.

A successful zero waste program must also be an inclusive one. Inclusive zero waste systems make sure that resource recovery programs include and respect all those involved in resource conservation, especially informal recyclers whose livelihoods depend on discarded materials. The workers who handle waste should be fully integrated into the design, implementation, and monitoring processes, as they ultimately make the system function. In some communities, where waste workers come from historically excluded populations, this may require ending long-standing discriminatory practices.

4. Designing for the future: Zero waste emphasizes efficient use of resources; safe manufacturing and recycling processes to protect workers; product durability; and design for disassembly, repair, and recycling. Once communities begin to put zero waste practices in place, the residual fraction — that which is left over because it is either too toxic to be safely recycled or is made out of non-recyclable materials — becomes evident, and industrial design mistakes and inefficiencies can be studied and corrected.

Read entire Op-Ed at Nation of Change.

Child of the Holocaust – Part 1

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call by Gabriel Constans.

Child of the Holocaust – Gitta Ryle – Part 1

Auschwitz. The word is synonymous with death, loss, murder and extermination, the worst barbarism that can be inflicted by one human upon another. For many it symbolizes evil incarnate. Most of us know it only as that: a symbol, a word, a dreadful image from the past. Yet for others, such as Gitta Ryle, Auschwitz is a living, cold reality that consumed her beloved father and grandparents who were starved, beaten, gassed and incinerated in its Nazi machinery of hatred and racism.

Mrs. Ryle survived the holocaust by being hidden in French schools with her sister and was reunited with her mother at the war’s end. While pregnant with her third child her mother died of a heart attack. Gitta’s years of family separation and loss were compounded and reawakened with the death of her husband from cancer.

Over the years, Mrs. Ryle has spoken of her life during the war with increasing frequency to elementary, high school and college students. Her living, breathing, realistic account of her experiences has brought history and its relevancy to the present, before the hearts and minds of many generations. On a more personal and less publicly noticed form of engagement, she has provided support and comfort for young people who, like herself, have had to cope with the death of a family member or friend.

GITTA: I was born in Vienna in 1932. In thirty-nine Hitler invaded Austria. Since my family was Jewish we had to flee from the Nazis. My father was in the most danger. To avoid capture, he and some other men left almost immediately. My mother, older sister and I stayed on for a while. Mother eventually heard of a children’s organization called the OSE that took Jewish children out of the country to try to save them. After a few preliminaries, my mother decided to have us go and put us on a train with other children to France, where my sister and I stayed throughout the remainder of the war. My mother answered a job announcement and got a job as a cook/dietitian in England. They sent her a ticket and she stayed there until the war ended.

In the meantime we learned that father had escaped to Belgium. Through the Red Cross in Switzerland, we were all able to keep in touch with occasional letters. When father discovered where we were he came to France and worked close by the school we attended, so he could visit. We saw him a few times before some French citizens denounced him. He was captured, put into a camp and shipped to Auschwitz. That is where my father died in 1942. I was seven when I left Vienna, so I must have been about nine and my sister twelve. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, also died there. They were not able to leave the country because of health reasons. There was also my father’s brother Moses and his wife and son, Martin, who were captured and listed among the dead in Auschwitz. My father’s parents died before I was born. Luckily, my mother’s younger brother and sister had left before the war and lived in America.

Other friends and some of our teachers were also killed. Each time the Germans infiltrated our school they’d rush us out. I was always in the younger group and my sister in the middle. We went from one children’s home to another until they hid us in a Catholic convent. When the convent also came under suspicion, they put us on individual farms.

I grieved especially hard for some of the teachers that were taken away. One was Boris and his wife. Another was Moses and his wife. As a child I didn’t know what was happening to me. After awhile you start to become numb when somebody dies. There was no place for grieving. You think that this is the way life is. It was a protective mechanism. I guess I established a personality which was just, I don’t know . . . not trusting . . . never knowing what was going to happen.

At one point when we were hidden in a farm cellar, and fighting was going on all around us, I just said, “OK, this is it. They’re going to bomb us anyway.” We said good-bye to each other and it was kind of peaceful to think it was going to end. I think that is partially how I lived my life. When I have done some work or process of trying to get rid of some of the deeper feelings, I’ve thought of how peaceful it would be to just follow them to the gas chamber. That is what I have been working on from this loss, this last loss. I thought I was doing pretty good, but I guess I’m not there yet because it comes up again and again, as now. All of the past deaths, all of the losses, come up each time. It’s harder and harder.

My father was gone, then my mother. I reunited with her when we came to America and she died when I was pregnant with my third child in August of 1965. She died of a heart attack in her sleep. It was her third such attack. She’d had two mild ones before. I believe she died from a broken heart, when she’d had to give us up during the war. I don’t know if I could have done that. She was a very courageous lady. After the war she always worked and kept busy. I don’t think she ever went too deep into herself because that was scary. Part of me wishes I were the same way. Instead, I delve into it and work with it because that is the only way I know how to live.

It makes a difference how you lose someone. When I lost my mother I was quite pregnant. There was a different type of grieving because of bringing someone to life just when another is leaving. I took it very hard. The initial reaction was, “Oh God no!” Her death triggered a lot of stuff, but I didn’t have the time to deal with it like I did when my husband died. I had three small children to take care of. I guess that is what they mean when they say being busy is good, though I don’t believe it. Maybe it helps other people but for me it just pushes things down and puts it away.

When my husband became ill, he was sick for eight months, I started grieving upon hearing the prognosis and kept hoping he was going to make it; hoping for some miracle even though the death sentence was three to six months. Up front I did not accept that he was going to die, even though in the back of my mind there was that stuff going on that realized it was indeed going to happen. This made his death the most traumatic. It brought up all the others I had not had time to deal with. For the first year and a half after his death I was numb. I had Hospice and saw Norma (a bereavement counselor) once a week and there was a wonderful social worker named Betty. She talked with my children. I told her when it was all over that then I could see her. She was very good. She came a month or so after his death and it was very helpful.

A month before Bob (husband) died, his ninety-one-year-old father died. So while I was taking care of Bob I also took care of his father. He was a very difficult man but through me being with him I learned a lot of compassion and he always said he loved me and appreciated that I was there for him. When he died Bob didn’t want to go see him but at the last minute said OK. I drove him to the funeral home, went up to his dad and touched him and gave him a kiss on the forehead. I cried. I think in some ways I was saying good-bye to my own dad. After the war we searched in vain for my father, until we found a listing that said he was shipped to Auschwitz. Taking care of my father-in-law and Bob gave me a way to do what I couldn’t do for my dad.

For the first few months after Bob died I didn’t accept the reality and being alone. It was the first time I’d ever slept alone in my entire life. There was always somebody around . . . children, parents, husband.

I always felt Bob was around though. I wasn’t afraid. I closed the door, went to bed and that was it. It’s been like that ever since. That is why the house is good for me. There are all kinds of beliefs about this. We each have to pick what fits for us. I put a bench out by the ocean, just a half block from this house, in his honor and I put some of his ashes close by so I can go there anytime. He used to love the sunlight, so he faces the lighthouse (South).

Growing up I knew a little about Judaism, but not that much. We didn’t have schooling or anything during the war and being in the Catholic Church for only six months, in a convent, I learned the rosary in French and listened to the chanting and stuff. I liked it. It made me feel safe, so as a child it was OK. I did a lot of work on myself but not too much on religion. I couldn’t give up my Jewishness, but I did survive for a reason, whatever that is, so I needed to keep it.

When my children got to the same age that I had been when we were separated from our parents, I started getting ulcers. I was physically sick and there was a lot of fear in me. Bob said, “You need to get some help.” My kids were six and seven-years-old. I went and talked to a counselor. At first I talked about things that bothered me everyday and then we got deeper and deeper, to the point where the guilt and not understanding why someone would want to kill me when I didn’t do anything wrong . . . all that stuff came out. That is when I say I started the work. When anniversaries of the war occurred, forty then fifty years, people started asking me more questions and I told them my story.

Before that I hadn’t talked to my children, only when they asked because of something at school. They just knew I was from Europe. I think each one of them was affected a little differently about it.

When the schools began to discuss the holocaust they became interested in what a live person who’d lived though it would say. It’s had a big impact on those I speak with. I’m OK about doing it when I’m asked, partially because we don’t want to forget about it. When I talk to kids I give them a little lecture and try to put across, “Yes, what happened was terrible.” and “Yes, I went through it and survived. I am who I am because I survived. It’s the yin and the yang, nothing is all bad. I could have gone another way. I could have become a killer, but for some reason I choose not to. I chose to be an OK individual, to be healthy and honest.”

The reason I chose good over evil came from my beginnings. I had a very loving mother and father. It was my sister and I and mother and father. We lived in a small apartment in Vienna and I remember a lot of love and compassion. I was very special, especially to my dad. So I have some real positive food that was given to me very early and I think that is why I talk to young people who have children about how important it is, that beginning. If I hadn’t had that I don’t know which way I would have gone. When the family was separated I didn’t understand, but as I became an adult the nurturing and caring stayed with me and helped me go the right way.

I remember a lot of hugging. There was always greetings, comings, goings, holding and explanations of things. My dad was quite religious and he would explain what he was doing. I vaguely remember going to temple as a little girl and having happy memories. My mother was a fabulous cook. She gave us wonderful food and was always there for us. I was never left alone. When I went to kindergarten, right before Hitler came to Vienna, my sister always went with me on the trolley. She would drop me off when she went to her class. We were a unit. We were a very strong unit, then just like that . . . it was all cut off.

Part 2 (Conclusion) Tomorrow.

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