Groups Still Concerned about 'Zero Waste' Goals

Athens, GA - Despite recent efforts to improve the Salt Lake Olympics Organizing Committee's (SLOC) Solid Waste Management Plan, recycling professionals led by the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) remain concerned over the SLOC's declaration of a 'zero waste' goal.

"We applaud the Olympics Committee for recognizing the importance of a zero waste strategy, and for rejecting the original plan to mix garbage and recyclables at public venues," said Bill Sheehan, Executive Director of the Athens, GA based GrassRoots Recycling Network. "But the plan still lacks sufficient detail, resources and engagement of the public to achieve zero waste," Mr. Sheehan said.

A GRRN representative and other recycling professionals, recycling business leaders and government officials met with SLOC on August 16, 2001 to propose improvements to the Olympics' waste and recycling systems. This "Recycling Forum" was organized largely in response to a resolution spearheaded by GRRN and adopted by the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) at CRRA's July annual meeting. The resolution specifically noted concern with the SLOC's zero waste claim and recommended ways to improve the Waste Management Plan.

"I'm pleased the SLOC provided an opportunity to discuss various concerns and permit outsiders to make specific recommendations," said Richard Anthony, a board member of both CRRA and GRRN. "However, it is still unclear what the SLOC's level of commitment is to those recommended changes, and unlikely that they can come close to a goal of zero waste without adopting the recommendations."

"The Forum's recommendation to use two bins for source separation rather than their original single bin system that mixed trash and recyclables is a significant improvement, but lags behind the 'recyclables' and 'compostables' system employed at the Sydney, Australia, Olympic Games," Anthony added. "To their credit, however, SLOC may well lay the foundation for large-scale food waste composting operations in the Salt Lake City area."

"GRRN will be monitoring implementation of the SLOC's plans," Sheehan said. "SLOC's recycling contract sets specific diversion rates and requires daily reporting. Public accountability is crucial. At a minimum, SLOC needs to implement the recommendations of the Forum to move closer to realizing their goal of Zero Waste. GRRN's involvement in this matter results from the need to hold institutions accountable when they make zero waste claims, and to properly inform the public whether those claims have merit."


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