OGDEN — A zero-waste community is possible, but it’s going to take hard work.
So says Eric Lombardi, the keynote speaker at Weber State University’s third annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit, scheduled for Wednesday and today in the Shepherd Student Union.
More than 700 people registered for the summit, nearly tripling attendance for last year’s one-day gathering.
“It’s not going to just happen,” said Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit recycling processor in Boulder, Colo., now in its 36th year.
“It takes courage. It takes will.”
Eco-Cycle is one of the oldest recycling processors in the country.
“It took me 15 years in this job, but people are finally starting to understand,” said Lombardi, who speaks and consults around the world. “They are ready to listen.”
Lombardi said few people were interested in recycling when costs exceeded profits, but the equation flipped in the 1990s. Now that a modest profit can be made, and with landfills getting clogged and greenhouse gases posing a threat, people are paying attention.
Some other parts of the world are ahead of America in their reduce/reuse/recycle efforts, he said.
Lombardi outlined steps in the right direction, including recycling materials, composting organic waste, reusing or repairing goods rather than discarding them and designing products to be more durable.
In addition, processing goods discarded in landfills, by mixing over a 90-day period, will reduce waste and create a more stable mix of waste that’s less dangerous to the environment, Lombardi said.
A 10-year timetable makes sense for what needs to be accomplished, he said. “It will take 10 years to get everything built, to regulate market change and to create a cultural behavior shift.”
In years one through four, he would like to see communities make curbside recycling bins available. He would like to see communities start building trash-processing centers, with areas for recycling, composting and reclamation of materials that can be used by industry.
In Boulder, discarded yoga mats are sold to a company that uses them in the making of tablet computer cases, Lombardi said.
Also in the first years, a public education program should be organized and could be funded by an increased tip fee at landfills, he said.
In years five to eight of his 10-year program, Lombardi would require that waste be sorted into the previously provided curbside bins.
Portland, Ore., had a great idea in collecting organic trash once a week and nonorganic trash every other week. Residents motivated by smell were more likely to fill their organic trash bins for quicker pickup, he said.
In years nine and 10 of this program, Lombardi said, he would like to see manufacturers encouraged to participate, making containers and single-use items more easily biodegradable.
Lombardi told his listeners they have an ethical and moral responsibility to make sure global resources are not squandered or destroyed by America’s high consumption level.
“So, Utah, go,” he said. “You can do it. There’s no reason not to make progress on this issue.”