Zero Waste International Alliance President Richard Anthony gives us an overview of the important work they are doing to implement Zero Waste in communities around the world.

Trip Report 2015

When I came to San Diego in 1987 I was directed by the County Board of Supervisors to reduce landfill disposal by one third in three years. I was told the door was open and there was no need to kick it down. It was true and in four years we were down in tonnage at County Landfills by about fifty percent. This year more than ever I see that we have made the turn and our Professionals are looking at discards as resources and implementing effective ways to capture them for Recycling and Composting.

It turns out an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs is to recycle and compost everything. To do this completely we now understand that we need to redesign products and packages where at the end of use, options like reuse, repair, recycling and composting are available. And as we realize Earths resources are not infinite and there is “no away”, the closed circle economy is now the basis of industry. Our travels this year pretty much convince me that indeed there is a global movement and, it’s about resources.

In January Hawaii called, the Mayor was pushing the burner again and Captain Moore suggested showing the Movie “Trash” around the Island and having a discussion about Zero Waste. The film showings would mobilize folks to an Island wide meeting. The events I spoke at were well attended by locals and organized by Angela Kang.

The timing was tight and I flew from Hawaii on Friday night to San Diego and the next morning got on a plane with Deb and headed to Lisbon Portugal. What a pretty City and with the most intelligent cab drivers yet. Lisbon was a trade with Deb so that she would go to Munich and Berlin for some meetings with me. A city built on hills with a lower section on the coast connected by trolleys and cobble stone streets, throw in a castle with at view and you have a great walking City.

From there we flew to Munich for a meeting with the German Solid Waste Group in Tutzing set up by my friend Dr. Franz Simon. This Bavarian Town is at the foot of the Alps and with the winter snow (a lot of it) on the ground, made for a great retreat. I learn that “Cradle to Cradle”, redesign and repair as well as Zero Waste are part of their dialog.

In Berlin I spoke at a research laboratory and on a tour I learned that they were testing Rhine river water and finding plastic compounds. We had a great time in Berlin and Franz gave us a tour that included a tower restaurant where you could see the whole City, with a member of the German EPA who said that they are done building incinerators. The next day Franz gave us a bus and trolley tour that included Currie Hot Dogs and famous Berlin tourist attractions.

I head back to Hawaii for the Workshop with Captain Moore, Paul Connett, Ruth Abbe and Angela Kang. A week before the event the Mayor pulled the plug on the incinerator calling for more composting. We celebrated the victory and focused the workshop on Zero Waste as a solution and composting as a big part of it. The workshop was well attended by locals, representatives of the other Islands and City staff. During the time we were there we had a chance to see “Plastic Paradise”, the story of the potential extinction of the Albatross due to marine plastic debris. We all cried and thought of ways to stop this.

From January until April we plan for the Earth Fair. This year we had 120 volunteers serving 30 Zero Waste stations in an open event (no gate) with over 300 vendors. We tried out a new bin sign design that could accommodate a crowd of 50,000, recovered edible food (500 pounds) at the end of the day for the Mission and captured over 4,000 pounds of separated recyclables and compostable organics.

In May the USZWBC was held at the Biltmore, a great venue in downtown Los Angeles. The Major came with all his staff and praised the goal of Zero Waste. We closed the conference several days later with Eric Lombardi, Captain Moore and I calling for action.

The World Resource Forum was being held in Sydney and we were invited to present a workshop on Zero Waste. Gerry Gillespie, Colleen Foster and I with technical assist from Captain Moore showed that there is “no away” (marine debris) and Zero Waste redesign, recycling (Oceanside) and composting (Australia) is the right direction. On that trip Deb and I went to Adelaide and found an “Unmaking Waste” Conference in this Zero Waste City. There, I found ZWIA founding member Warren Snow and Councilmembers from New Zealand learning about the Australian Deposit system and the advantages of a Zero Waste City goal. After Adelaide, we stayed in at the Kangaroo Island preserve for a few days and saw Kangaroos and Koala bears. We flew from there to Carnes to see the barrier reefs. Carnes is a great beach town. Australia was wide open, healthy, with lots of people on the streets and an upbeat attitude.

We got back in time to attend the San Diego City Council meeting on July 13, 2015 where by unanimous vote the Council approved the Zero Waste Plan.

Back to the Biltmore for the CRRA Conference, the Majors staff again showed up in force and a lot of Los Angeles programs are spotlighted. This 39th Annual event was well attended. Our NCRA skit played to a Biltmore full house. I participated in a song and dance number that had every one singing “it’s not junk…”

Two work events happened August. A State grant that had us going door to door in large multifamily units was kicked off and a project to help Fort Collins develop a City Recycling Ordinance involved a trip to Colorado. Fort Collins is a great town with Colorado State and New Belgian Brewery (Fat Tire), both proclaimed Zero Waste leaders. The door to door work is in the rural parts of San Diego County where we found people who were glad that we were reaching out to where they lived.

A bonus was a chance to speak about Resource Recovery Parks at SWANA in Orlando. Deb and I got a chance to use some old hopper cards and see Epcot. Disney has figured a lot out. All food is grown without pesticides, vertically and hydroponically for the whole facility; and the Lion King won’t let his buddies damn the river for a resort as there are others who need water downstream. “Everything is connected”, what a concept…, thank you Rachel.

In August at CRRA we had an International Day. We missed Rossano Ercolini due to his schedule but I let him know that we were proud of what Zero Waste Italy has done. Rossano and I met at a Zero Waste Workshop in Davos at the turn of the Century and have worked together on conferences and projects. I suggested that he become part of our Zero Waste Cities workshop team in Davos for the World Resource Forum in October and together we panned a road trip through Northern Italy with Captain Moore, Pal Connett, Rossano, Ruth Abbe and Tom Wright and one point Enzo and JM Simon.

We visited five cities and eventually made it to Davos. We spoke to a lot of Mayors, school children and regular folks. Near Florence the neighbors had an Italian pot luck (lots of lasagna and pasta dishes and a variety of red wines) and a meeting that went on past midnight.

Before Davos I had been invited to speak at the Zero Waste Conference in Montevideo Uruguay. This is a part of the word I have wanted to visit for a long time. They are newly organized small farmers, restaurant owners, composters and organic food people are working together to build a Zero Waste system in Montevideo.

Deb and Brian came down south with me and after the conference we all went to the Iguassu Falls in Argentina and spent a few days in Buenos Aries. In all places we did a lot of walking and for the most part felt safe everywhere. Montevideo is much like San Diego in the seventies ready to grow and be a world green tourist center. The Falls were mind blowing. They are truly a marvel of nature, no argument. We stayed both downtown and in the Palermo district of Buenos Aries and enjoyed the parks and food.

Today we are home; I decided not to go to Paris because of a new contract with CSULB to do a Zero Waste Plan and other proposals to San Diego County. I have a good feeling that there is a growing social movement throughout the world that embraces the environment and wants to work to protect it for the future. Bring on 2016.