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Notes on waste, water, and whatever from the author of Bottlemania and Garbage Land
Excellent points! Seeing the bigger picture means taking on a higher level of responsibility for life. That's not easy, even for those of us working to help out in some way to create a healthier world.
New York City's #1 "America's Dirtiest City" (TRAVEL+LEISURE). It's a shame and disgrace that America's largest City, with all its intellect, money and power inside its 300+ square miles, remains VERY anti-Green and Third World-like, with blocks upon blocks of unremoved, disease-laden wastes along streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.
Municipal curbside recycling ALONE may not do much for environmental health, but can still have a meaningful impact when considered in a broader context. What happens after items leave the curbside? Who collects, processes and sorts them? Who buys the post-consumer materials from the processor and uses them as a manufacturing input? A municipal recycling program is more meaningful when it's paired with efforts to develop local markets for recycled municipal materials, which reduces overall costs and environmental impacts of transporting post-consumer products to China (for example) for re-use. Developing local materials processors, such as encouraging paper mills and other producers to buy local recycled materials as an input, can improve the "success" and extend the impact of our curbside recycling programs. This is KEY. The EU's LCA pilot sounds like it could be a meaningful driver of change on the producer side. There are also some North American jurisdictions who are moving forward on lifecycle product management policies like Extended Producer Responsibility (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/recycling/history/index.htm).