By Nathan Mayberg
LOCH SHELDRAKE July 23, 2004 There are alternatives to a landfill.
Dr. Paul Connett, a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University, made that presentation for over an hour and a half at Sullivan County Community Colleges Seelig Theatre on Wednesday evening.
His speech detailed operations from San Francisco to Nova Scotia and Canberra, Australia, all of which recycle a majority of their waste and make a profit.
Connett said one of the major problems regarding waste is that there is too much consumption to begin with.
Our task is not to get rid of waste, but to stop making it, he explained. We are living on the planet as if we had another one to go to.
One of his major proposals includes a ban of plastic, which he believes offers few recycling opportunities. In his opinion, companies should be required to use glass and other more recyclable products.
Connett was full of statistics. In five years of Nova Scotias recycling program, they had diverted over 50 percent of their waste from landfills. Their waste diversion plan includes a drop-off site for hazardous materials such as paint, full glass and paper recycling and the shipment of steel to Quebec.
Connett, who visited the landfill in Nova Scotia, said it had no noticeable odor.
Furthermore, Nova Scotias waste-resource program created about 3,000 jobs. Their tire recycling program has been used to make artificial turf, indoor tracks and possibly roads in the future.
San Franciscos recycling program has diverted over 50 percent of waste from landfills and is estimated to reach 75 percent by 2010. Recycling has also proven to be a money producer and saver.
Burlington, Vermont grosses about $750,000 a year for its program.
Canberra, Australia has one of the most successful programs in the world, said Connett. They sell many of their reusable items for a profit of $1.2 million annually. Sixty-four percent of waste materials are recycled there.
During a video on the Australian program, one of its leaders said, We need everybody to make a commitment to achieve our zero waste goals.
Recycling has netted millions in savings for companies that recycle, said Connett. According to his figures, Xerox saves $76 million a year for its efforts. The brewing industry in Ontario recovers approximately 98 percent of its bottles.
Connett said recycling measures such as these require good leadership. He repeatedly chastised the governments use of reports by consultants, who he said are usually working against the public interest.
Dont let experts take your common sense away, he said.
Even public agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation cannot be trusted, in his view.
The DEC is supposed to be working for you. We found in St. Lawrence County that the DEC is working for the incinerator industry, he claimed.