Cleveland Incinerator

Clevelanders learn from “zero waste” experts at June 2nd Symposium

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Keynote speaker Bob Gedert, Director of Resource Recovery in Austin, Texas.

CLEVELAND — Two of the country’s leading experts on developing outstanding programs for recycling, composting, and resource recovery of materials brought valuable information to Cleveland for the “You and the Environmental Symposium” on June 2, 2012.   Bob Gedert, Director of Resource Recovery in Austin, Texas, and Neil Seldman, President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C., provided concrete examples and blueprints for how non-profit groups, private businesses, and city governments can make major strides in reaching a goal of “zero waste.”

“Fifty percent of household waste can be recycled, and another forty percent composted, using technology that is available today,” Gedert explained. His department in Austin has issued a comprehensive plan to reach the goal of 90% reduction of waste by 2030.

“The best zero waste plans are community-invested,” Gedert said. Prior to adopting their plan, Austin city officials held 100 community meetings to find out what kinds of programs the citizens wanted.  Gedert has worked in Ohio, Indiana, California and Texas to implement recycling programs and says he always includes a community organizing component, with recycling block captains who encourage their neighbors to learn to recycle.  A survey in Austin showed that the lowest-income communities have the highest recycling rates.  “Well-managed recycling always costs less than trash management,’ Gedert said.

Seldman described the business opportunities that can be created to reuse materials we now think of as “waste.”  “There are companies who would be glad to locate their businesses in Cleveland to handle and reprocess materials like high quality paper, mattresses, and other items,” Seldman commented.  “This is the way to create good-paying jobs that won’t be outsourced.”

Diane Bickett, Director of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, described the current recycling rates and programs in cities across the county. She announced that two companies, Greenstar and  Kimball, are opening new materials recycling facilities in the region this month, with a combined capacity of handling 1000 tons per day, and Republic is updating their facility in Lorain.

Symposium participants also learned about exciting composting and community gardening programs going on in Cleveland with presentations from Greg Malone of Kurtz Brothers, Ian Rosby of Rosby Resource Recycling and Keymah Durden of Rid-All Green Partnership.

Councilman Brian Cummins, who emceed the symnposium, gave participants an update on Cleveland’s current plans for rolling out its automated curbside recycling program across the city.

Click on the links below to view the slideshows from the symposium:

The Austin Resource Recovery Program not only knows how to recycle, it knows how to have fun doing it.  A local choreographer worked with the department to create a dance using garbage/recycling trucks:

and the local cable TV station ran a reality series called “Dare to Go Zero” where four families took on the challenge of reaching a “zero waste” goal:

The symposium was sponsored by Earth Day Coalition, Environmental Health Watch, Ohio Citizen Action, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club, Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition and GreenCityBlueLake Institute, with support from the George Gund Foundation.

— Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action

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