Monday, May 30, 2011

Extended plastics recycling in Monroe County, now we want more


RRParkNow that Monroe County has extended plastics recycling to include #3 -#7 plastics, we want more. It’s like that old joke about the kid whose uncle gives him an apple. The kid’s mother says, “Johnny, what do you say to your uncle? The kids says, “Peel it please.” It’s never enough.

Those who have been trying hard to get recycling to work in a county where folks don’t recycle as much as they should and the market for recycling keeps shifting have got to be saying to themselves “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. In other words, in the environmentalists’ attempt to have everything their way, which is impossible in our world, you’re going to stop what good has been done.

I disagree with this stance. Critical to understanding environmentalists is that they are advocates for the laws of Nature, rather than a badly thought-out economic system that has not included environmental degradation since its inception. For all the good it has done to lift our lives, our present economic system has trashed our environment. Hence, it doesn’t matter how far businesses and governments have to bend over to accommodate the laws of physics, because at the end of the day, if we don’t have a sustainable existence, an existence where we aren’t driving our environment into the ground, we are not going to make it. We applaud the efforts that Monroe County has made in recycling and we, as every other county in the world, have to move more quickly towards sustainability. Climate Change is upon us and a warming planet means we have to adapt and change our behavior on a large scale and rapidly. There’ no other way; we are in a race against runaway warming, whether you want to believe it or not. This is not the rapture or Chicken Little; it’s ninth grade Earth science.

So, here’s the next big step Monroe County could take in recycling. I know this isn’t a baby step; this is a giant leap over most New York State Counties: “Resource and Recovery Park.” It even sounds sustainable. Here’s a great definition of a Resource and Recovery Park:

“A Model for Local Government Recycling and Waste Reduction A resource recovery (RR) park is a new development in recycling. In its broadest sense, it is the colocation of reuse, recycling, compost processing, manufacturing, and retail businesses in a central facility. The public can bring all their wastes and recoverable materials to this facility at one time. An RR park may also be called an integrated resource recovery facility, serial materials recovery facility (MRF), recycling estate, industrial recycling park, recycling-based industrial park, or discard mall. A number of market forces are encouraging this type of development.” –from Resource Recovery Parks: A Model for Local Government Recycling and Waste Reduction

It wouldn’t be that far out for Monroe County to consider such a fantastic project. We now recycle plastics #3-#7. We lead the state in hazardous waste, pharmaceutical, and paper recovery. We are now considering (I heard it from a little birdee) a community composting center for massive composting, maybe like Tompkins and Onondaga counties. And, we are going to create an ECOPark: “The ECOPark will be a one-stop-shop for the disposal of everything not accepted by refuse haulers.”

Why not take all our ad hoc efforts at solid waste reduction, reuse, and recycling and go to the next level—a resources and recovery park. It’s not a total capitulation to the Zero Waste folks because it’s an admission that we are not going to move a sizable portion of our population to create no waste in the near future. We’d like that, but at this point in time the public wants to shop for whatever they want, enjoy a healthy environment, keep costs low, and all without having to lift a finger—except to cart their old TVs to the curb (please, don’t do that anymore) . A RRP accomplishes much of this by centrally locating a designated area, a park, that will host a series of facilities that specialize in all the various components of solid waste— while encouraging business partners to make a profit using their expertise. The benefits are great: green jobs, no dumping, recovering and reusing stuff we now plow into the ground.

Imagine, just imagine, that if one of our two terrific candidates for the upcoming Monroe County Executive office said this fall, “Let it be stated that before this decade is out, Monroe County will have its own resource and recovery park.”

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