Trash Talkin’

22 06 2010

I am not trying to slam or even discourage event and meeting planner/producers from attempting to be responsible stewards of the planet. Doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. Tons (pun intended) of more information about specifics may be found at Waste Industry.

I produced a conference in a city (unnamed) where our goal was simply to recycle paper, plastic, and cardboard. The Convention Center had separate receptacles for each item we had chosen to recycle, and they did an excellent job collecting all separate items from the show floor as well as each of the meeting spaces. By far the exhibitors were the worst offenders, leaving boxes of materials, junky plastic giveaways, stacks of paper collateral materials and brochures, and worst of all huge quantities of cardboard that had been used to ship all this garbage. Following the two-day conference, during my final walk through, I thought it would be fun to visit the dumpster area to see how they managed to do such an excellent job separating the materials we had requested be recycled. Their system was remarkably easy – one dumpster was full of cardboard (good), and the two other dumpsters were full of all of the items we presumed were being separated, and ready to be taken to a landfill (not good.)

This was very disconcerting, and management could not answer any of my questions to my satisfaction (except to say it is extremely expensive to implement the kind of program that was our basic goal).

There are many ways to use waste to manufacture completely different products. Waste newspaper can be turned into insulation. Old tires can be turned into carpet underlays and HVAC piping. Mixed plastics can create a great wood substitute. The imbalance between the supply of waste collectors coupled with people who imagine new products that can profitably utilize these materials is the answer. Simple creativity. For hundreds of years mankind has found solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. I really believe that together we will find many ways to reverse global warming. I really believe we will find a way to feed and supply healthy food and potable water to countries whose inhabitants are continually dying because we have not yet found solutions.

For now, all we can do is try to set the example. It is very disheartening to witness instances like those at the Convention Center, but we actually got almost halfway there – it is a start.

I apologize for repeating myself, but “doing anything is better than doing nothing at all”. Mankind may have been very lucky solving crises at the last possible moment. Let’s hope we don’t run out of time this time around.




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