We agree with David Crawford that there is a critical need for recycling cost statistics to meet the rigorous standards of a formal accounting audit (see the letter in the April/May edition). But given the lack of such statistics, policy analysts can and must make do by scrutinizing data from different sources for quality and consistency. As anyone familiar with U.S. recycling programs well knows, there is no publicly available source of audited data. Recycling cost data are by and large private and proprietary or disparate, non-standardized data held by (or never even compiled by) state and local government agencies.
So, when our consulting firms formed a team to compile existing statistics on U.S. programs for the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, we knew the task would involve a painstaking, critical review of available data from different sources. We steadfastly used a consistent methodology for each program we looked at, and we described the quality of the data and our concerns with them as appropriate. While an audit would have involved a detailed review of how specific firms recorded costs, our effort is better described as a review to ensure that the available cost data we used describes programs consistently and in a manner that allows readers to reasonably compare costs and effectiveness of broad program types. A thorough and penetrating multi-stakeholder review served as an overall reality check.
We commend Corporations Supporting Recycling and its partners for launching an effort that could potentially yield valuable information and ultimately could improve recycling systems. But we regret that Mr. Crawford has chosen to adopt undocumented antagonism as a means of communication, an approach that has stymied agreement on facts and actions concerning beverage-container recycling for decades. Instead of accusations about unstated inconsistencies, we would urge greater cooperation among Canadian and U.S. stakeholders in the industry, government and non-profit sectors to better understand recycling options and opportunities.
Edward Boisson, et. al.
Principal, Boisson & Associates
Carrboro, North Carolina
Chuck McLendon, R.W. Beck, Inc.
William Franklin, Franklin Associates, Ltd.
John Stutz, The Tellus Institute
Jeffery Morris, Sound Resource Management Group, Inc.
[The writers jointly authored the report “Understanding Beverage Container Recycling” under contract to Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling, a project of Global Green USA. See editorial opposite page. — ed.]
[Former director of consumer support for the Overwaitea Food Group] Dennis Kinsey’s letter in the December/January edition makes it sound like the Overwaitea Changes Recycling Centres in B.C. are a consumer’s dream come true.
The reality is that when consumers are awarded with “Save on Foods” loyalty points, they are only receiving 2.4 cents for a container that bears a 5 cent deposit. The Save on More Award Catalogue lists the T-Fal Two-Slice Toaster with a retail price of $59.99 available for free for 25,000 loyalty points.
When I took 12 pop cans in I was awarded with 120 points in lieu of 60 cents (10 points per can). It therefore takes $125 worth of cans to purchase a toaster valued at $59.99. The breakdown is as follows: 2,500 cans to equal 25,000 points, each can is worth 5 cents of cash that I would receive $125 for. Not only am I losing money and actually paying double, the toaster was probably purchased at a preferred customer wholesale price.
So not only does Save on Foods receive its deposit back, it also receives a 3 cent per can handling fee from Encorp Pacific to collect these cans. It receives 8 cents per can and pays out 2.4 cents per can. This means that Overwaitea profits 5.6 cents for each can collected. Let’s get something clear — Overwaitea is in this for the money and it has nothing to do with being the friend of the consumer or the environment.
I feel cheated and will never again shop at Save on Foods. I cannot believe that a major food chain would treat its own customers in this manner.
M. Jones, Pitt Meadows, B.C.
[It’s often been said that grocers rule the world. Now we know why! — ed.]
Right to Harm
I read with great interest the letter regarding the November 22, 2001 Warkworth Service Club meeting on biosolids. I would like to thank the chair of the meeting, Dean Peters and the Warkworth Service Club for running a first class meeting. I have been to many town hall-style meetings where emotion often clouds the facts and prevents the transfer of sound scientific information.
The meeting included representatives from the ministries of environment, agriculture, food and rural affairs, local medical officer of health, City of Toronto, Azurix and myself representing both our own family farm and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. I have used biosolids on my farm for over 20 years and have been actively involved with on-farm research and demonstration trials, which have yielded positive agronomic results.
The approach to this meeting excluded emotional critics from the invited speakers in an effort to provide a smooth and streamlined flow of information to the public. Organizers were concerned that, based on experience from previous meetings of this nature, disruption of invited guests distracts from factual and requested information, which is unprofessional and unacceptable to the speakers, organizers and the public. The purpose of such a meeting is to provide accurate, concise information transfer and should not be used as a platform to promote personal agendas. It was my understanding that those people on the other side of the debate had met with local council on more than one occasion.
After the formal presentations were complete, anyone attending the meeting had ample opportunity to have all of their questions answered one on one, as the speakers remained until the last question was answered.
The speakers provided many valuable pieces of information to the Warkworth Service Club to be included in the town library. This included the most recent comprehensive literature review on sewage biosolids applied to agricultural land as reported by the Water Environment Association of Ontario.
Once again, the meeting was professionally run and the organizers should be commended.
Kitcholm Farms, Guelph, Ontario
Social science perspective
Recycling, Sorting and Separation Equipment & Systems: Single-Stream Recycling
I really appreciated the analysis presented in the article, “Single Stream Recycling” in the April/May edition. However, it looks as if waste management at the upstream (segregating, collecting, sorting, etc.) and downstream level (recycling, disposal) is still based most of all on cost-effectivenes, budget analysis, time-cost, and finance. I think that it’s time we think the whole process over and include new parameters in waste management strategies and analysis.
Why not integrate social science concepts such as behaviorism, social and cultural particularities of neighbourhoods as contributing factors to better waste management? Research I conducted three years ago in France (where I am still living) shows that the relationship between city dweller’s behavior, and their social and cultural particularities impact significantly on waste production and handling. A better understanding of these factors by policy makers and other players can save money time and investment in waste sorting in particular.
Dr. Rahim Baba