For my first blog as the ED of the Zero Waste Alliance I figure I may as well jump in with both feet and get it out there right away - our community is not where it needs to be when it comes to our vision for and commitment to a future without waste. To clarify my view, this is not an indictment of our agencies, our businesses or our people. Clearly as a community we have so much to be proud of when it comes to marking a path for sustainability and the progress we have made on waste. Plus, this issue of zero waste is no easy matter. It is wildly complex and fraught with competing views across the entire gamut of how, when and why we should pursue zero waste.
Regardless, the pursuit of zero waste is not an environmental nicety or feel good window dressing. Waste is exactly what we know it to be....WASTE! Waste is bad for business, bad for communities and bad for the global environment. Stop for just a second to consider just the economic aspects of waste. With one hand we are paying increasingly higher rates to acquire goods and materials for our businesses and our homes. Then after some level of use (often well short of full) we pay to have those goods and materials hauled away. Then, going back to that first hand, we pay again to acquire new materials to replace the stuff we just paid to have taken away.
Now you can argue that this is a gross over simplification of the waste stream and that what I am pointing to as a problem is in fact the foundation for what we know to be our economy. I agree...this is a gross simplification and is the foundation of our economy. In no way however, do these points make my assertion that this is a broken model that does not serve the best interest of businesses and communities is in any way wrong. Also, in this scenario I never even went into environmental impact, higher cost of living, health effects on the most vulnerable or the jobs that we can create by breaking the model. So let's consider a truly positive alternative.
Our community and our state have the opportunity to continue to be true leaders by declaring a meaningful, prosperous and inclusive vision of a future without waste. A future where the goods and materials that we produce and acquire are not bound for landfills or shipped overseas to be reprocessed. A future where we close the loop within our own local and regional economy, we strengthen existing businesses, we create new business and we tear away at the notion of have’s and have not’s as we become rich in resources just as we are now so poor in waste. This is about rethinking our models, it is about rebuilding our markets and it is about bringing to forefront the capacity of our minds and our hands to create a future that is better than the one that sits before us now. It is time Portland! It is time Oregon! Zero Waste 2020!