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EPA Encouraged to Adopt Zero Waste

San Francisco, CA - A national network of recycling professionals, waste reduction activists and local government officials is calling upon the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go beyond recycling and waste management to Zero Waste in rewriting the nation's principal solid waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) called upon the EPA's "RCRA Vision Workgroup" to adopt Zero Waste goals and trade out-dated waste management practices for 21st Century resource management strategies.

"GRRN applauds the EPA's working group for drafting a forward looking document for materials management through the year 2020. However, based on our years of experience working in this field, we believe the most prudent step the EPA could take is to adopt Zero Waste as the unifying theme for the agency's vision statement," says GRRN representative Gary Liss of Loomis, California. "Zero Waste is the simple idea that we must stop the one-way flow of materials and resources through our economy into the trash. Even the most successful community recycling programs can only go so far protecting our environment and preserving natural resources."

GRRN is a North American network of recycling professionals and waste reduction activists promoting a sustainable economy through producer responsibility and Zero Waste. GRRN recently released its Zero Waste Briefing Kit, providing information, tools and case studies to make Zero Waste planning a reality. The California Integrated Waste Management Board recently adopted key aspects of GRRN's Zero Waste agenda in setting the State's long-term strategic waste plan.

Gaining momentum and acceptance around the globe, including communities and businesses here in the U.S., Zero Waste represents a whole system approach to materials and discards. Zero Waste policies look "downstream" to divert additional resources from the waste stream as well as "up-stream" to assign responsibility to those with the ability to redesign products and packaging, to phase-out hazardous materials, and to reduce reliance on virgin resources. Zero Waste also means eliminating subsidies for wasting and resource extraction to achieve a more efficient economy.

"At present there are considerable barriers to achieving Zero Waste; barriers in the form of public policy and corporate practice," says Liss. "GRRN believes that by working to shape public policy and influence corporate practice, citizens can make meaningful progress toward eliminating waste and maximizing resources for economic growth. Local governments have done more than their fair share over the past decade to increase national recycling rates. Dramatic future progress can only be achieved through the adoption of new rules for businesses that ensure waste decisions are factored into the design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution of products and packaging to consumers - decisions that are beyond the control of local governments and taxpayers."

"The EPA's process of setting waste and materials policy for the 21st Century is an invitation for concerned citizens and their representatives to be involved in shaping the outcome," says David Wood, GRRN's Madison, Wisconsin-based Program Director. "They are the reason recycling has succeeded, yet they are also frustrated that systems are being made to fail. GRRN's outreach indicates that people are ready for a new era in which manufacturers and brand owners are held accountable for waste and every effort is made to end dangerous, out-dated practices like landfilling and incineration."

The EPA is taking public comment through January 31, 2002 on their planning document, "Beyond RCRA: Prospects for Waste and Materials Management in The Year 2020." For more information, visit www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/vision.htm.

GRRN offers extensive resources on Zero Waste and producer responsibility through its website, www.grrn.org, including resources specifically designed for local government officials.

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