Materials and waste management

We call for major reductions in per capita consumption of materials and significant increases in the efficiency with which materials are used. Waste reduction should be maximized and disposal minimized. This entails shifting the perception of the waste crisis from one of waste handling to one of resource management.

We should serve as model citizens in our materials use and consumption, and in our waste generation behavior. For example, we should avoid the use of readily disposable products such as polystyrene food and beverage containers, we should recycle and compost, and we should buy products made from recycled materials when available.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

We endorse a basic hierarchy of strategies for minimizing waste disposal: reduce, reuse, recycle. We call for education programs for the general public and in the schools regarding the benefits of this approach.

We must stop producing what is not needed. We call for the production of high-quality products that are designed to be durable, repairable, and recyclable at the end of their useful life (as opposed to planned obsolescence); the reuse of products in initial form (such as reusing glass bottles); and recycling of discarded products to create new ones.

We favor recycling of products back into the same type of products (such as old newspapers into new ones) over recycling materials into products that displace other materials (such as recovered plastic into plastic lumber, which replaces wood and does not affect the use of virgin plastic resins).

We call for accelerated implementation of residential curbside collection of separated recyclable and compostable materials in all communities where curbside collection of mixed solid waste currently takes place. A wide range of materials should be targetted for this separate collection (for example, glass, aluminum, other metals, yard waste, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, other paper, motor oil, plastics, appliances, tires, food waste).

In communities not served with residential curbside service, residents should have the opportunity to recycle and compost a wide range of materials.

Recovery of a wide range of recyclable and compostable materials generated from institutional and commercial sectors should be mandatory. We call for community control of materials.

Governments (federal, state, and local) should provide low-interest loans, subsidies, or other incentives to encourage locally owned and operated businesses to make products from recycled materials. They should further develop and implement strategies to encourage stable markets for recovered materials.

We call for a return to a returnable/refillable bottle system for food and beverage containers, and for deposit legislation for glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers.

We support a deposit on all wet and dry cell batteries to encourage collection of these for recycling or handling as hazardous materials. Nonrechargeable batteries should be phased out as rapidly as possible. We call for the local use of more of our scrap materials in order to "close the loop" locally, increase efficient use of materials, promote local self-reliance, and get the maximum economic benefits from these scrap materials.

Local governments should give preference to locally owned recycling enterprises in order to create and support local industry, minimize transportation of materials, retain community control of materials, and stimulate the local economy.

States and cities have the right to restrict and control the use of products and packaging that pose an undue burden on the environment. Such materials include nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, and toxic materials and excessive packaging. To this end, we call for implementation of agreements with producers/manufacturers to redesign their products, legislation (bans, taxation, recycled content standards), educational programs (consumer and producer education, and boycott campaigns), and economic incentives/disincentives (taxation, special fees, and/or deposits).

Until such time as CFCs are eliminated and replaced with nonenvironmentally destructive alternatives, we call for the recycling of CFCs rather than their release into the atmosphere. We do not accept the substitution of compounds such as hydrogenated fluorocarbons (HFCs), which also contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.

Life-cycle considerations

We must consider the whole "life cycle" of a product. Ecologically responsible production entails releasing no persistent toxic substances in production, use, repair, or disposal; the frugal use of energy; use of renewable resources; environmentally sensitive extraction methods; and worker safety.

We call on those bodies responsible for establishing product standards to include life-cycle considerations in their standard setting process for product approval. We further call for citizen participation in this process.

Waste management

We oppose incineration of municipal solid waste, sewage, nonbiological medical waste, and toxic waste. We call for a moratorium on any new incinerators that burn such materials, and a rapid shut-down of existing incinerators that do so.

Until these incinerators are shut down, we call for the strictest air and ash emission standards and the strictest enforcement of these standards. We oppose efforts to exempt municipal solid waste incinerator ash from strict regulation as a hazardous waste.

We oppose the open-air burning of agricultural wastes that can be aerobically or anaerobically composted or recycled into the soil productively.

We call for local solutions over dumping waste problems on neighboring communities or relying on distant export markets to recycle our scrap materials.

We oppose the traditional siting of waste disposal facilities in poor, minority, or relatively powerless neighborhoods, and in other areas of least political resistance.

We support grassroots groups in their efforts to address the root cause of the solid and toxic waste generation problems.

Toxic and nuclear wastes

We endorse the strategy of grassroots groups using Good Neighbor Agreements as a tool to force local polluting facilities to eliminate or reduce toxic emissions, to empower citizens to inspect the facility and challenge unacceptable practices, to allow citizens to monitor toxic emissions independently, to establish regular meetings to monitor and assess the success of the Good Neighbor Agreement, and to enact any other activities relevant to the local situation.

We call for the immediate repeal of the Price-Anderson Act and all other federal, state, and municipal legislation that limits corporate, government, or individual liability for nuclear and hazardous/toxic waste.

We call for legislation to hold private enterprise (both operators and investors) and government operations accountable for all toxic waste dumping, spills, and contamination on or off their sites and responsible for all costs of a complete clean-up. Disputes regarding the clean-up effort would be settled once the clean-up has been completed. Joint and several liability would be maintained in all cases where individual liability cannot be ascertained or arbitration agreements are not fulfilled.

In addition, we call for levying sizable fines on the guilty parties, and for aggressive criminal prosecution where warranted. Individual residents would have legal standing in all pollution cases. Revenues collected would be used to compensate victims of contamination for ill health effects and property value losses, and to fund industries and government operations undergoing conversion to ecologically sound operations.

We call for the elimination of all toxic releases into the environment as soon as humanly possible. Until this is achieved, we call for strict enforcement (for example, through independent monitoring by use of split samples and citizen inspections) and the strengthening of environmental laws regarding the release, production, transportation, recycling, and disposal of any toxic materials or emissions. We also call for the use of more benign toxic waste reduction techniques, such as biodigestion, various oxidation processes, and glassification.

We call for waste audits of, and preparation and implementation of waste reduction and future waste disposal plans by, businesses and government operations generating hazardous/toxic wastes as a condition of receipt of operating permits.

We oppose shipping of toxic wastes across national borders, and the shipping of toxic/hazardous or radioactive wastes across any political borders without the approval of inhabitants of that jurisdiction. We oppose deep-well injection disposal of toxic wastes because of potential future migration of those wastes into water supplies or other channels affecting the living environment

We oppose deregulation of low-level radioactive nuclear waste. We demand that all radioactive waste that remains hazardous for longer than 100 years or is extremely biologically active be reclassified as "high-level" waste.

We call for permanent above-ground, continuously monitored storage of nuclear waste at or near the sites where it is generated.

We call for a ban on all technologies that result in high-level radioactive waste. This includes but is not limited to nuclear weapons production and nuclear power generation. Environmentally destructive technologies, processes, and products should be replaced with alternatives that are not environmentally destructive.