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  10 Jan 08 - mail; Oregon; boxes; Clorox; bags; jobs; consuming; PVC; Taiwan
-- A project of the National Waste Prevention Coalition
Forum archive:  http://www.nwpcarchive.org

From Tom Watson, King County Solid Waste Division, Seattle, WA, and the 
National Waste Prevention Coalition (NWPC):

There have been some interesting new developments on the junk mail 
front.  The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) announced Jan. 8 that 
they are no longer charging people $1 (I used to call that the 
"inconvenience fee") to sign up for the Mail Preference Service.  
Here is their press release about that:


DMA is clearly responding to Catalog Choice (http://www.catalogchoice.org), 
the new national opt-out service launched last fall by the Berkeley, 
CA-based non-profit Ecology Center. As of today, more than 360,000 
people had signed up for Catalog Choice. But DMA wants to control 
opt-outs, so they have told their members to ignore the Catalog 
Choice requests. DMA is also retooling their Mail Preference Service 
to make it seem more like the user-friendly Catalog Choice. In 
addition to taking off the $1 fee, DMA has introduced a shorter 
(and similar) website name, http://www.dmachoice.org

Here's an article by Burt Helm in the 12/20/07 Business Week, 
describing DMA's initial reaction to Catalog Choice:

Now, here's where it really gets interesting: The DMA Mail 
Preference Service used to be generic, taking people off all lists. 
Then Catalog Choice came along, letting people specify which 
catalogs they wanted to opt-out of. So now, DMA has decided they 
like that idea better, and they have changed the Mail Preference 
Service so that you just select the mailers you don't want mail 
from, rather than opting out of everything.  

Ironically, the end result may be that less junk mail gets reduced. 
And even though the DMA finally took off that ridiculous $1 fee, 
they still require you to give a credit card number when you sign 
up for their Mail Preference Service, supposedly to verify the 
request. I think that's just as much a barrier to some people as 
the $1 fee.  

The DMA is doing its best to outsmart the environmentalists at their 
own game.  And maybe they'll succeed.  But I applaud the efforts of 
Catalog Choice, and I really appreciate the way they have put 
pressure on the direct mail industry.  I think government agencies 
should continue to promote Catalog Choice (while warning people that 
some catalog companies may not honor those opt-out requests), 
despite DMA's heavy-handed efforts to snuff out Catalog Choice. 

E-mail:  tom [D O T] watson [A T] kingcounty [D O T] gov

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's new Waste Prevention 
Strategy (forwarded by David Allaway): 

This 4-page strategy and workplan were adopted in December, 2007.

U-Haul Box Exchange (first seen in the Resource Recycling electronic newsletter):

Click on "Let me exchange boxes!" to go to a messageboard that you 
can use to trade, sell or buy reusable boxes and moving supplies. 
Then scroll down and click on your region, on the left, for either 
"Free used boxes" or Buying, selling boxes" to see the listings.

Green Works, a new line of household cleaning products from Clorox:

Also see http://www.cloroxgreenworks.com   
This line includes an all-purpose cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, 
dilutable cleaner, bathroom cleaner and glass & surface cleaner.  
According to the 1/8/08 "Sustainable is Good" blog by Rider Thompson, 
which covers developments and trends in green products and packaging 
this line will begin appearing on retailers' shelves nationwide this 
month.  Clorox says all the products in the Green Works line will 
sell nationally for between $2.99 and $3.39.  

As another front in its foray into green products, in November Clorox 
spent $913 million to buy Burt's Bees, which makes eco-friendly 
products such as beeswax lip balm, lotions, soaps and shampoos.  
Here's an article about that by Louise Story in the 1/6/08 New York Times:  

Excerpted from a 1/10/08 BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news 
service article:

The Australian government says it wants to phase out the use of free 
plastic bags, following a similar move by China earlier in the week. 
Environment Minister Peter Garrett said that action was critical, 
because plastic bags were harming Australia's land and wildlife. He 
said he would meet state leaders to discuss the plan in April, with 
a view to implementing it by the end of 2008.

On Jan. 8, China said a ban on free plastic bags would start in June. 
It also banned production of extra-flimsy plastic bags, attributing 
both decisions to the need to reduce pollution and save resources. 
On Jan. 9, New York City passed a bill requiring large shops to 
provide recycling bins for plastic bags. Other U.S. cities, such as 
San Francisco, have already banned plastic bags from grocery shops. 

The full article is at:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7180365.stm

Position opening for an Education and Outreach Specialist for the 
Thurston County Department of Water and Waste Management, Olympia, 

The salary range is $3,925 to $5,221 a month (2007 rates).  The 
deadline for applications is Jan. 25, 2008.  This position will have 
an organics focus, and will have waste prevention elements.  It will 
include school presentations.

Several position openings at Global Footprint Network, a non-profit 
organization based in Oakland, CA:

None of the listings give salaries or application deadlines.

Excerpted from an opinion piece by Jared Diamond in the 1/2/08 New York Times:

The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and 
metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are 
about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and 
Australia than they are in the developing world. 

Today, there are more than 6.5 billion people on Earth, and that 
number may grow to around 9 billion within this half-century. Several 
decades ago, many people considered rising population to be the main 
challenge facing humanity. Now we realize that it matters only 
insofar as people consume and produce. The estimated one billion 
people who live in developed countries have a relative per capita 
consumption rate of 32. Most of the world's other 5.5 billion people 
constitute the developing world, with relative per capita 
consumption rates below 32, mostly down toward 1. 

People who consume little want to enjoy the high-consumption 
lifestyle. Governments of developing countries make an increase in 
living standards a primary goal of national policy. And tens of 
millions of people in the developing world seek the first-world 
lifestyle on their own, by emigrating, especially to the United 
States and Western Europe, Japan and Australia. Each such 
transfer of a person to a high-consumption country raises world 
consumption rates, even though most immigrants don't succeed 
immediately in multiplying their consumption by 32.

Among the developing countries that are seeking to increase per 
capita consumption rates at home, China stands out. It has the 
world's fastest growing economy, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese, 
four times the United States population. The world is already 
running out of resources, and it will do so even sooner if China 
achieves American-level consumption rates. Already, China is 
competing with us for oil and metals on world markets. 

Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below 
ours, but let's suppose they rise to our level. Let's also make 
things easy by imagining that nothing else happens to increase world 
consumption - that is, no other country increases its consumption, 
all national populations (including China's) remain unchanged and 
immigration ceases. China's catching up alone would roughly double 
world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 
percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent. 
If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates 
would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch 
up, world rates would increase elevenfold. It would be as if the 
world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present 
consumption rates). 

- Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of 
California, Los Angeles, is the author of "Collapse" and "Guns, 
Germs and Steel."

Full article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html

Excerpted from a 12/12/07 Reuters news service item:

Retailer Sears Holdings Corp. said Dec. 12 that it would reduce over 
time the use of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, in its packaging and 
products. The operator of Kmart and Sears, Roebuck stores said in a 
statement that it would identify safer alternatives to PVC, urge 
its vendors to reduce or halt use of the material in goods and 
packaging, and encourage labeling of goods as PVC-free when true.

PVC is a plastic used in building materials, packaging, toys and 
clothing. The material has come under attack from environmental 
groups that say it releases chemicals linked to cancer and birth 
defects. Other retailers that have moved to reduce the use of PVC 
include Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp.

Opinion piece by Julia Ross in the 12/2/07 Washington Post (forwarded 
by Patty Moore):

When I planned for my year in Taiwan two summers ago, trash was the 
last thing on my mind. The more obvious challenges of moving 
abroad - finding an apartment, buying a cell phone and navigating 
the bus system - preoccupied me in the weeks before my departure. 
I worried most about studying Mandarin full-time, the difficulty of 
mastering the language's four tones and the intricate arcs, 
fishhooks and grids that make up written Chinese.

But strange things happen when you cross cultures. Unexpected 
frustrations vex you, and habits ingrained over years suddenly come 
up for negotiation. So it was for me and waste disposal.

On this leaf-shaped island of 23 million people 100 miles off 
China's coast, trash matters. My Taipei landlady was the first to 
make that point, when she gave me a crash course on how to dispose 
of household waste like a local. First, buy city-approved trash bags 
at the corner 7-Eleven. Then, meet the garbage truck five nights 
a week at the mouth of a nearby alley. Finally, heave the bags onto 
the truck yourself.

You'll recognize the truck, she said, because it plays music - a 
tinny version of the Beethoven classic "Für Elise," as I soon 

With help from the melodic warning, I figured out where and when 
to show up. Understanding the mandatory recycling system was more 
troublesome. In Taiwan, recycling trucks tag along behind trash 
collectors, but they accept only certain items on certain nights. 
According to the strictly enforced schedule, plastic bottles must 
be separated from plastic wrapping and bags, and flat recyclables, 
such as Styrofoam trays and cardboard dumpling boxes, are collected 
only on Mondays and Fridays. Show up with bundled newspapers on the 
wrong night, and you'll get an earful from the sanitation worker. 
Feigning ignorance of Mandarin won't absolve you, either.

Waiting for the garbage truck is one of Taiwan's liveliest communal 
rites. Many evenings I watched food vendors from the night markets, 
buckets of eggshells in hand, chat up convenience store clerks 
alongside Filipina nannies who traded kitchen appliances as if they 
were at a Sunday morning swap meet. Freelance recyclers keen to make 
a few dollars showed up to collect cardboard and newspapers, which 
they would sell back to the city. An alderman with a whistle kept 
traffic at bay.

These curbside jaunts were my initiation into Taiwan's broader 
waste-disposal network, made up of municipal employees and regular 
citizens all doing their part to keep the system humming. Watching 
the city's disparate trash tribes at work shamed me into compliance 
after years as a half-hearted recycler back home. I even came to 
feel a peculiar solidarity with the "ladies with tongs," the city 
transit and university sanitation workers who spend their days 
sifting through garbage bins in subway stations and on university 
campuses in search of aluminum cans. And I admired the swift 
vigilance of food court employees as they swept fast-food wrappers 
and Styrofoam cups off my table into shallow baskets before I 
had time to look for a trash can. (There aren't any.)

Then you have nosy landlords, who, depending on the housing 
arrangement, are sometimes tasked with sorting their tenants' 
trash. One American friend, upon surrendering several bags of refuse 
soon after he moved into a studio apartment in Taipei, was 
dumbfounded when his landlady scolded him for eating too many candy 
bars and not enough fruit. Humiliated, he bought a bag of oranges 
the next day, hoping she would notice the peels he planned to leave 
on top of the pile.

Taiwanese friends tell me that 10 years ago, their capital's 
sidewalks were drowning in rotting garbage. You'd never know it 
today, thanks to the introduction of a per-bag trash-collection fee 
to discourage consumption, a charge for plastic bags at supermarkets 
and the rigorous recycling policy now in effect. These changes 
created an infinitely cleaner city. Even more impressive, they fueled 
a sense of civic responsibility in a place where democracy is still 
taking root. Just as the Taiwanese invest in their young 
representative government, they invest in a clean environment. 
There's a palpable appreciation for hard-won progress.

Back in the United States, green awareness has seemingly taken a 
quantum leap in the past year, with talk of carbon offsets - a term 
I hadn't heard when I boarded my plane for Taipei - lacing the 
passenger conversations on long-haul flights. But I've been home for 
three months now, and U.S. consumption patterns look as robust as 
ever, with the same limited patchwork of recycling opportunities 
available. Reducing your "carbon footprint" is a hip way to fight 
global warming, but what about the trash generated by last night's 

Before my year in Taiwan, I was a lazy environmentalist, dutifully 
recycling wine bottles and newspapers and opting for paper over 
plastic, but never willing to go the extra mile if it wasn't 
convenient. It's no longer so easy to make excuses. Living in a 
place where I was expected to use what I bought and recycle every 
last yogurt cup and juice box left me with a new appreciation for 
what clean streets mean in a civil society, and the realization that 
I'm responsible for everything I consume. That's as good a Chinese 
lesson as any.

- Julia Ross (e-mail - juliaross2002 [AT] yahoo [DOT] com) is a 
writer and former U.S. Fulbright scholar in Taiwan.
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