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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Operations Strategy & Management > Waste Management

Facilities Management – and China?

Facilities managers play a key role in waste streams with every purchasing policy and decision.

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Waste Management Starts with Purchasing and Sourcing

"Today’s material is tomorrow’s garbage," says Janet Brown of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment. "We need to help [businesses] recognize that waste management should be started at the point of purchase," she says. "It took me years to understand that."

Landfills are filling rapidly with our social strategy of planned obsolescence, new is better, and hyper fashion trends. And landfills aren’t just neutral piles of innocent materials. They produce methane that pollutes the air, chemical leakage that pollutes the ground water supply, and consume valuable open space that could be better used for native vegetation that filters air, soil and water resources.

Think of Waste as Materials for Mining

Today’s used material reclamation opportunity is becoming a billion dollar business with china playing the most aggressive part. The port of long beach ships waste products such as paper, carpet, plastics, even whey and squashed cars to china for reprocessing – and in many cases they back to the us as more highly valued finished goods. LA's top exports include paper products, fabrics, pet and animal feed, synthetic resins and produce, she said. Imports include higher-value items like furniture, apparel, toys and sporting goods, vehicles, vehicle parts and electronic goods, according to port officials. An average of 240,000 pounds of "recycled" plastic are shipped from Long Beach and Los Angeles each day.

From Waste to Recycling to Reuse to Reduction

Greenpeace, an environmental watchdog organization, distinguishes recycling -- the production of identical products from waste materials -- from reprocessing, which involves producing items of a different type than the original. The independent Port Import Export Research Service found that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach shipped more than 67 million pounds of waste plastic from recycling centers throughout Southern California and the Southwest in the six months ending in February 2006. almost all of the waste was sent to China via Hong Kong.

Recycling In-State...or Internationally is a Growing Issue

While California officials would prefer that recycling be accomplished in-state, they also see benefits to shipping the materials to China instead of having them end up in landfills. With ocean pollution and community impacts looming as major problems, this can be a temporary bandage, at best.

"When it comes to plastic, people should rethink recycling," one spokesman advised. "the only environmentally responsible thing you can do with plastic is stop buying it."

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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