Eureka Recycling is the only organization in Minnesota that specializes in zero waste, and is one of the largest zero-waste organizations in the nation. Our services, programs, and policy work present solutions to the social, environmental, and health problems caused by wasting.
We track national, regional and local developments, using our expertise to advocate for practices that help individuals, organizations, and communities understand the significance of zero waste and to achieve their own zero-waste goals.
In a zero-waste system, materials are designed and managed to be conserved and recovered, rather than destroyed, buried or transformed in ways that limit our ability to safely reuse them for productive purposes. Communities and businesses currently in the process of adopting zero waste goals look to examples of ecological systems, where the output of one system becomes the input for another system, the way decomposition and decay form the basis of nourishment for new organisms.
In 2005, residents from throughout Saint Paul participated in the Saint Paul Environmental Roundtable to help set Saint Paul's policy direction on six environmental issues: zero waste, food systems, cleaner energy, green building, open space, and water stewardship.
In 2006, as a result of the Roundtable recommendations, the City of Saint Paul adopted the goal of being a zero-waste city by 2020 and created Sustainable Saint Paul to carry out the city's environmental work. Eureka Recycling works closely with the City to craft zero-waste policies and strategic plans to achieve zero waste.
Many communities around the country and around the world are adopting policies and strategic plans to move toward Zero Waste.
Recognizing the need to provide all communities clear and concise examples for crafting zero waste policies and strategic plans to achieve zero waste, Eureka Recycling has compiled a Zero Waste Ordinance Resource Guide with nearly 70 examples from communities that are leading the way!
The Zero Waste Resource Guide was first presented at the Alliance For Sustainability's "Local Government Sustainability Workshop—Using Model Sustainability Ordinances to Implement your City's Sustainability Goals" in Saint Paul, MN on April 16, 2008.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an approach that shifts responsibility for the recycling, composting, or safe disposal of products and packaging to those who design, market and profit from them: the producers. This shift makes it possible to completely empty our trash can of the "toughest" trash.
The most efficient place to reduce waste and encourage reuse, reduction, recycling and composting is at the product development stage. This is the most economical place to minimize the environmental impact of the product.
Consider these figures from US EPA for 2007: Nearly three-quarters (73.3%) of the waste we generate is throw-away products and packaging. According to a study released in September 2009 by the Product Policy Institute, 44% of US greenhouse gas emissions come from products and packaging.
Making producers responsible to share in some or all of the cost of assuring authentic reuse, recycling or composting of the products, packaging and the byproducts, provides an incentive for them to use their engineering and design capacity to create items that include all environmental considerations into their product design, packaging and choice of materials. This has been tested with great success in a country just a stone’s throw north of here (Canada, of course)!
One way people talk about moving beyond reuse, recycling and composting is through legislation called “product stewardship.” Product stewardship is an assignment of responsibility for the management of a product once it has been discarded. You might recognize product stewardship as a fee collected by government at point of sale for a product that is used to subsidize a government-run recycling program or a “take-back” program that is significantly run and/or funded by the government to keep materials out of the trash (such as for electronics).
To date, these programs have not stopped the ocean of discards or stemmed the harvesting of the last of our natural resources. Product stewardship can, and should, be a strategy to prevent waste, not just manage it better once it has been discarded. Product stewardship is effective if it includes extended producer responsibility where the producer takes full responsibility for their product design and packaging.
Eureka Recycling is working with a handful of organizations and elected officials to find what will work in Minnesota, where there can be movement and political will to ensure producers take responsibility for their products and packaging.
The energy saving benefits of recycling has been touted for years-for example, making a new aluminum can from old cans results in 90-97% energy savings compared to making a new can from bauxite and other raw materials-but calculations about the benefits of composting are just surfacing.
Or take the Minnesota Energy Challenge to see how you can make a difference by recycling and composting.
For additional information about the impacts of wasting in terms of climate change, read Stop Trashing the Climate, a report issued in June 2008 by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Global Anti-Incineration Alliance, and Eco-Cycle.