THOUGHT QUESTIONS FOR BREAK-OUT SESSIONS
These questions are offered to stimulate thoughts
and discussion at the break-out sessions. They are not expected
to be answered by participants or even specifically discussed, but
rather to help set the stage, create the context, be a jumping-off
point Ð or they can be ignored. But since the break-out questions
are so broad, we thought this might be helpful.
BREAK-OUT SESSIONS #1 - WHAT ARE WE BUILDING?
1. What Would A Healthy California Recycling System
Look LIke 10 Years From Now?
- Do we have a healthy recycling system now?
- What could be improved?
- If recycling were working GREAT in California 10 years from
now, how would it be different from today?
- How might the infrastructure be different? Markets?
- How should we evaluate the best recycling system? Is the cheapest
the best? Why or why not? What does "cheapest" mean? What other
kinds of costs can there be?
- If our materials would be primarily exported, what would our
recycling system look like if a major part of it were overseas?
How would we protect California from foreign disruptions?
- What about "highest and best use"? Are one-time recycled products
- Would people still need to be educated and persuaded to buy
recycled products? Would recycled content just "be" in all our
products? If so, how would we get to that point?
- What would be the drivers for the system? What would keep it
going? Would it be focused primarily on collection? What about
focus on recycled products or even design?
- What would be the environmental goals of the system? Or would
there even be environmental goals?
- What would be the role of the state and federal governments
in California's recycling system?
- Would there be integration with "upstream" processes such as
product concept and design and, if so, how would that happen?
- Would we have the same financial arrangements, or could we imagine
financing the system differently?
- What would be the responsibilities and expectations for citizens?
How involved would they be?
- What kinds of regulations might there be that don't exist today?
What regulations that exist today might not be necessary if the
system were working GREAT?
- Would recycling be profitable? Is that its purpose? Is that
how it functions best?
- Would we have achieved Zero Waste?
- Would there be a similar national recycling system or would
California's be unique?
2. Can Foreign Recycled Manufacturing Offset Potential
Domestic Recycled Manufacturing Losses?
- Will California's recycling system be solid if most recycled
product manufacturing moves overseas? Is this simply a new stage
in the growth and evolution of recycling?
- Does it matter where recycled products are made? What if we
got all our recycled products from overseas? What would be good
about that and what might be problematic?
- If we are striving for more environmentally sustainable production,
will that be better served domestically or by foreign manufacturers,
or does it matter? How can we evaluate and substantiate environmental
conditions when manufacturing is overseas? How can we promote
environmental sustainability if the products are beyond our control?
- What kinds of losses could there be to California's recycling
system and to our communities if domestic recycled product manufacturers
close? If the local community does not have a manufacturer, does
it then have no losses? Are dollars the best evaluation? Are there
other factors that are important but perhaps not measured in dollars?
- Does it matter if some domestic recycled product manufacturers
close or if some consistently recycled products return to using
- Is there any reason to maintain older production facilities?
Is it always best to favor those that are new, most efficient,
- Is loss of recycled product manufacturing possibly a problem
for other states to worry about but not California? If so, is
it a good idea for our recycling system to focus on different
goals than those in other areas?
3. Globalization: Are We At Its Mercy Or Can We Guide
- How much of the potential for domestic recycled product manufacturers
to close has to do with the quantity and quality of recovered
materials, and how much is inevitable due to globalization and
overseas competition anyway?
- Is there anything we can do within the recycling system to reduce
the chance of losing domestic manufacturers, given that many are
also caught up in globalization pressures?
- If there is something we COULD do, does it mean it's something
we think we SHOULD do? Or should we let globalization run its
course however that will play out?
- Is there a difference in how globalization is affecting large
businesses vs. small businesses? Is there any different benefit
in promoting small recycled business opportunities in our local
communities or are they as vulnerable to globalization pressures
as large businesses?
- Do local businesses help insulate us or balance the impacts
from globalization? If so, how far should we go to support them?
- If we are striving for Zero Waste, environmental sustainability,
nonexploitation and worker safety, how can we evaluate and substantiate
that when manufacturing is overseas? How can we promote environmental
sustainability if the products are beyond our control?
- Is there a way to spread environmental improvements worldwide
through our purchasing requirements? How could we do that?
- Some say that WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA all carry the potential to
consider environmental purchasing requirements as restraint of
trade - is that a concern?
- Some say that globalization foments a race to the bottom. Can
we have globalization that improves environmental sustainability
worldwide? Is there a way that California's recycling system can
BREAK-OUT SESSIONS #2 - DO WE HAVE ALL THE RIGHT
1. Is "Diversion" Enough? Are the Goals
of Diversion and Recycling Compatible?
- What does "diversion" really mean? Not just what does it mean
legally in California, but what do people mean when they cite
it as a value?
- What do people think happens to the materials that are diverted?
Is that really what happens to all of them? How much of them?
- Has there been a change in what happens to diverted materials
now from what happened to them when AB 939 was passed? In other
words, was there a different understanding and expectation then
than there is now?
- If our focus is on diversion, are we recycling? When does recycling
happen? At what point can we say that we succeeded in recycling
a material? Is that the same point as when we say that material
was diverted? If there is a difference, does it matter?
- Diversion seems to have primarily stimulated collection. Is
that the best place to leverage increases in recycling?
- Is there a difference in the recycling system if the focus is
on "recycled products" rather than on "diversion"? If so, what
is that difference, and why?
- What are the environmental goals of diversion? Are these actually
met by diversion? Are there any better ways to meet them?
- Does diversion include any focus on what happens to materials
after they are diverted?
- Does it matter whether recyclable materials are diverted to
another landfill, as long as they are not a local one? If it does
matter, should those materials landfilled distantly be credited
to the community's recycling rate?
- Does it matter whether recyclable materials are made into products
that will be recycled many times, or ones that won't be recycled
- Does diversion encourage or discourage source reduction, or
have no effect on it? Does that matter?
- What is most important for recycling - quantity, quality, keeping
things out of landfills, minimizing environmental impacts, reducing
resource demand, reusing materials, other? Does diversion optimally
promote this value?
2. Can Processing Technology and Equipment Design
Solve Manufacturers' Problems?
- Some say that if there is a problem with processed material
quality, it can be solved by technology. Can technology provide
the whole solution?
- If so, do we already have that technology? If yes, why do some
still have problems?
- If no, when will we have that technology? What will it take?
- Recycling is a just-in-time system. It cannot wait for improvements
in the future, it has to have workable solutions at each moment.
How can recycling continually improve as a system if the technology
is ahead or behind in one sector or another? How can manufacturers
concerned about quality wait for future improvements, if they
are not available now? Or is there a different solution?
- Some say that even with good technology, there will be a significant
labor requirement. Will we still need a lot of people to run good
- Does a processor using advanced technology require a different
type of labor pool than others? Do workers need to be more educated
and/or technologically astute? Does that present benefits or challenges
to our communities, labor pools, and the reliability of our recycling
- Some say that good processing really cannot be done without
significant hand-labor. Is this true?
- When collection and processing technology is designed, is it
discussed and tested with the manufacturers who will use the materials
produced from it? How much? Why or why not?
- If Asia has an advantage with inexpensive labor and can buy
any of the technology available to us, how can we compete with
them? Do we HAVE to compete with them? Is there any benefit or
advantage or value to not competing with Asia? Is there any place
for two different recycling systems?
- Does the expense of technology improve or limit its flexibility
as recycling markets and approaches change?
- Expensive technology often sets up pressure for directed material
flows and significant debt obligations. Does this limit or enhance
communities' program stability? Does it encourage or discourage
business development and creativity?
3. Are Market Forces Enough To Develop the System
and Solve Problems?
(Or are there needs for legislation, regulations, financial incentives,
tax credits, or other implementation assistance?)
- Some say recycling works best when it is left to free market
forces. Is that true? What are the benefits of leaving recycling's
development solely to market forces? Are there drawbacks?
- How do problems get solved with market forces? Do the solutions
take into account all who might be affected by the problems? Do
the solutions take into account non-monetary costs and values?
- Do market forces express any values? What are they? Are they
compatible with what we want for California's recycling system?
- Some companies say that they face unfair competition from overseas
because other countries' governments heavily subsidize the industries
they compete against. If this is true, is it still meaningful
and reasonable to leave development of the recycling system to
direction by market forces?
- Currently, California's recycling system is shaped by some regulations
at government levels. Are those helpful? If they did not exist,
would the system operate better or worse? Would it develop in
a better way or worse?
- Are there government regulations at any level that do not currently
exist and would be helpful?
- Are there financial incentives, tax credits, or subsidies that
would make sense to introduce? What would be their goal? What
values would we want them to encourage?
- When are regulations, incentives, credits and subsidies helpful
and when are they harmful? What would be a reasonable balance
between these and the free market, if there is any reasonable
- Does it make sense to create incentives for local manufacturing?
- Who should be responsible for paying for the recycling system?
Taxpayers? Collection companies? Brokers? Manufacturers? Product
purchasers? If the cost is shared, what's an equitable balance?
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