Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the recyclable materials collected in California

This article is not so specific of architecture but it´s related to urbanism. I´m not the kind of people who has huge waste bags at home with recyclable materials, I don´t earn money with it, but I´m very strict at recycling, and everyday separate the trash and this is what I taught to my children. Last week, the contents of my recycling bin was ¨stolen¨ and I thought, well here is somebody who´ll get some extra money in California.
Now, I couldn´t even imagine that great part of the recyclable materials in CA goes overseas, strictly speaking, China, generating jobs outside the country.
From Green Technology Magazine, an excerpt from Blain Bibb´s article:

As Chair of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce’s Green Team San Joaquin program, I have the pleasure of helping businesses reduce their costs of doing business through environmental stewardship. Through energy efficiencies, green cleaning, water conservation and recycling, businesses can actually profit and help the environment at the same time.
At a recent Green Team meeting, we had a presentation on the proposed Mandatory Commercial Recycling (MCR) Regulation that was in front of the California Air Resources Board and then rolled into Assembly Bill 341 and signed into law by Governor Brown on October 6, 2011. The law would divert millions of tons of material from the landfill, thus reducing Green House Gas emissions. That sounds like a positive initiative until one asks: “divert to where?”
Currently, the majority of the recyclable materials collected in California are shipped to other parts of the United States or to global markets; only about 5-20 percent remain in the State for remanufacturing. In other words, 80-95 percent of our recyclable materials are leaving California, specifically to overseas markets. So too, are our jobs, tax revenue and commerce.
Pondering these statistics leads to quite a rude awakening: eight out of ten pieces of recyclables we place on our curb are being shipped to China or other offshore markets for product remanufacturing powered primarily by coal, which is a huge Green House Gas (GHG) emitter.
Is the Chamber the only one to find it very ironic that the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) has commissioned a study to verify that much of that pollution is finding its way back to the shores of California in the prevailing winds of the jet stream? Meanwhile, many of our neighbors are losing their jobs and foreclosing on their homes.
In light of these important underlying facts, the State’s initiative to “divert” 3 million additional tons of recyclables to reduce GHGs sounds like a classic “do as I say, not as I do” scenario, or out of sight, out of mind, or “kick the PET bottle across the ocean.” What are we really going to accomplish? A new approach is needed.

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