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Sierra Club Florida
Waste Minimization Campaign

Zero Waste? Where can you start?

Step 1: Never, ever, take another plastic bag from a store.

It is simple enough, it just takes practice. Fill your car trunk, or bicycle basket with your cloth bags when you go shopping. If you have to, put a note on your steering wheel, or bike handles to remind you to take the bags when you go in the store. If you forget, go back out and get them. Or carry your few items home without a bag. This goes for fast food shopping too. You don't need that Subway plastic bag, your sandwich is in paper wrap and doing just fine.

Take your cloth bag into the other stores where you shop. If you forget, hold your receipt out and GO Commando! new definition: carry it in your hands without a bag!

American's use an astronomical number of single-use plastic bags, made out of petroleum. And they come back to haunt us, killing sea-birds, fish, acquatic mammals, and turtles. There is no reason to keep this cycle going. Reduce the waste. Don't use the plastic.

Want to do more? Join the Sierra Florida Waste-Minimization Team,

Step 2: Refuse to buy plastic bags and plastic wrap.

So much of what you throw away or attempt to recycle is plastic. We can reduce this. Don't use plastic (petroleum) bags for garbage. Find paper or a bio-degradable alternative. There are plastic-looking bags made out of starch and other materials that can be composted and will degrade. Search the internet. Find alternatives. Get creative. Don't buy something that comes wrapped in plastic that you are only going to throw away when you get home.

Step 3: Start eliminating other plastics from your life.

Look for glass containers instead of plastic bottles. Find the alternative. It is not that long ago that we didn't have plastics. We used to buy more glass and paper containers. Can't we again?

What's Next? We need a Bottle Bill in Florida!
Go to our Sunshine State Bottle Bill Campaign page and let's get rid of those bottles.

-from youtube. Music performed by Toby Gray and Alan Sitar Brown. Toby Gray:vocals, bass, Hammond B 3, guitar and percussion; Alan Sitar Brown: sitar and vocals.

Zero Waste for Florida

Florida needs to greatly improve its recycling rate. While our state has a goal of 75 percent, it currently is achieving only about 28 percent Other states, such as Oregon, are doing much better, and some individual cities, such as Nantucket, have achieved as much as a 90% recycling rate.

  • Create more than 100,000 jobs through recycling industries.
  • Save 7,000 MW of power, enough for 5 million homes.
  • Reduce greenhouse gases and our carbon footprint.

Zero Waste is a design principle and planning approach for the environmental management of resources. It aims to prevent waste by design rather than manage it after the fact. Sierra Club's Zero Waste policy addresses not only the quantity of waste we generate, but its toxicity, its contribution to climate change, and the important links between waste reduction and corporate responsibility.

We generate about 4.5 lbs of municipal solid waste per person per day in the U.S. That is several times the rate of European countries with similar standards of living. The production (mining, manufacturing and distribution) of goods generates an additional 70 lbs municipal solid waste (MSW) per lb of goods produced. Only 1percent of the "stuff" we buy is still in use after six months. If the whole world consumed resources at the rate of the U.S., at least three planets the size of Earth would be required. Also, the costs of managing wasteful and hazardous products are borne largely by taxpayers and ratepayers. Our system of extraction, processing, transportation, consumption, and disposal is tied to core contributors of global climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) attributed to consumption and waste account for almost 37 percent of total GHG emissions. The zero waste approach is essential to reduce GHG emissions.

The two most common MSW management techniques used in the U.S., landfilling and incineration, are disposal technologies and not consistent with the zero waste concept. Legislation passed in Florida in 2010 allows counties whose waste is burned to produce electricity to claim recycling credit. The Sierra Club rejects the idea that waste-to-energy (WTE) is recycling. The energy extracted by burning (or any form of WTE) is less than 20 percent of what would be saved by recycling the material. Resources are destroyed and no longer available for producing new products, hence new virgin materials must be extracted to replace them; this extraction process is highly detrimental to the environment and not sustainable.

What you can do:
  • Encourage your city and county officials to join the 103 mayors worldwide who have committed to zero waste by 2040. Collection of food waste and other organics is essential for high diversion rates--composting, or preferably, anaerobic digestion followed by composting. Composted material is a valuable soil amendment beneficial for Florida's sandy soils.
  • Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) fees for collection of waste are an effective technique for reducing waste and increasing recycling. Fees for the largest 96-gal trash should be several times those for the minimum size 20-gal can, with any amount of recycling material collected at no cost.
  • Consider container recycling incentives. California increased its beverage container recycling to a 76 percent level by increasing the California Refund Value (CRV) payout from four to five cents for beverage containers under 24 oz., and from eight to 10 cents for containers 24 oz. and greater. These savings translate into reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling 7.6 billion beverage containers is equivalent to removing nearly 300,000 cars from the road for a year.

Share our Zero Waste flyer

For more information
Austin Zero Waste Plan
California Recycling
Eco-Cycle Zero Waste
The Story of Stuff

Sierra Club Florida Waste Minimization Team: Dwight Adams, Debbie Matthews, Craig Diamond, Linda Demler, Drew Martin, Cecilia Height, Lisa Hinton, Amy Tidd, Dixie Stevens.
For Information send an email to Linda Demler, (

Sierra Club Stand on Bottling Facilities in Florida.

The bottled water industry is a multibillion dollar industry and has many lobbyists. There are over 40 bottled water facilities in FL. These facilities pay for a permit, but after that, they do not pay Florida for the water. Perhaps that is one reason they are so attracted to our state. Legislation to create a tax or fee on these companies has repeatedly failed. Some of our springs are decreasing in their flow. Silver Springs has already lost 32% of its historic average flow. Some of the springs in the Orlando area are predicted to decline in flow by 15% in the next decade, as aquifer levels decline statewide.

And then, there are all the plastic water bottles that end up as waste ..... enough to drown us all in plastic.

Concerned residents successfully stopped a water bottling facility on the Santa Fe River that could have endangered the river's sensitive ecosystem. But the fight against corporate water bottlers isn't over.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) -- the agency that grants permits for water withdrawals -- ruled in 2010 that a bottled water permit for the Santa Fe River was not "consistent with the public interest." But large corporations won't just back away from all this free water they can sell.

Residents of Florida need to be on the lookout and make sure that their county and city commissions know you don't want to give away our precious water.

Choose 75% Recycling or Watch 100% go up in Smoke

The stage is set to achieve 75% recycling of municipal solid waste (MSW) or have 100% go up in smoke using it as a fuel. It is up to us to decide by making our choice known to the Department of Environmental Protection. FS 403.7032 enacted in 2008 requires that DEP recommend to the legislature by January 2010 how to reduce the amount of recyclable solid waste disposed in waste management facilities, landfills, or incinerators by 75%. Fantastic, except for the huge fly in the ointment specifying that solid waste used for the production of energy counts as recycling.

Yes, legislation calling for 75% recycling also specifies that waste used as a fuel will count toward the recycling goal. Data indicate that for every material in municipal solid waste, recycling saves more than twice the energy that can be generated by using it as fuel.

An obvious criterion for counting waste used as a fuel as recycling should be that a net energy is obtained from the fuel. Burning MSW is like making ethanol from corn--it takes more energy to produce than is obtained by burning it. The EPA has calculated the energy to produce a ton of each constituent of MSW from both virgin and recycled materials. The energy saved by recycling is three to five times that produced using waste as a fuel. Energy saved by recycling is the greenest available.

Economic benefits of recycling make a compelling case for choosing it over use as a fuel. EPA data on jobs through recycling at 75% indicate that waste-based industries could support over 100,000 additional jobs in Florida with an annual payroll of up to $6 billion. Materials recovered in recycling programs in Florida would have a value of $600 million for recycling at 75%. Increasing recycling would provide many of the jobs needed to reduce unemployment now at 12%.

Producing new products from virgin raw material requires processes such as mining, use of fossil petroleum for plastics and fuel, and cutting or growing trees, all of which damage the environment, and are not sustainable. Recycling paper and plastics, which are not renewable fuels, would save energy, mean fewer trees cut from the world's few remaining virgin forests and less of Appalachia destroyed in ripping coal from mountain tops.

Recycling 75% will require collection of food and other organic waste for biological decomposition such as in San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and numerous other cities. Just as we now separate yard waste to keep it out of landfills, organic waste needs to be collected separated from recyclables. The technology for collection of source-separated waste is well developed.

What you can do: Make it known that you choose 75% recycling and that MSW is not a renewable fuel. Post comments on the DEP web site:

Or write to: Florida DEP, Bureau of Solid & Hazardous Waste, Division of Waste Management, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400

Write to your newspaper and state legislators. For more information visit:, and

To read more on the details, download a position paper here.

For an update on the current situation, download the latest doc here.

More Information:

Incineration Is Not Recycling
Article by Dwight Adams. Download this doc now Click Here

The Problem with Plastic Bags
Flyer from SC FL Waste-Minimization Committee. Download this doc now so you can hand it out at local events. WMC Flyer

Florida needs more recycling
Flyer from SC FL Waste-Minimization Committee. Download this doc now so you can hand it out at local events. Recycling Flyer

What you can do to help with 75% Recycling Goal - Flyer
Download this flyer to hand out What You Can Do

Recycling vs Waste-to-Energy
Read more. Download this paper.

Other incineration techniques, other than mass burn, are still not the answer.
Read more, download this paper. An Industry Blowing Smoke

Waste Management and Energy Savings: Benefits by the Numbers.
Download this paper. Benefits

Volunteers Needed - Group Coordinators

Waste Minimization Team is seeking a coordinator in each Group to help the Club have an impact on legislation by helping to:

  • Recruit other volunteers
  • Submit letters and editorials to the media
  • Make comments to DEP by letter and on their website
  • Meet with legislators in their districts this fall
  • Meet with local government officials to get recycling resolutions and ordinances adopted.

The Club expects a tough fight with those who want to keep on wasting; your help is critical to overcome this opposition. Group Waste Minimization Coordinators will be provided materials and training to help achieve the goal of strong recycling legislation. Knowledge of recycling and waste management is not necessary, but a commitment to waste reduction will be valued and appreciated. Please contact Dwight Adams ( or Linda Demler (

Waste Minimization Campaign and Coordinating Team: Dwight Adams, Debbie Matthews, Craig Diamond, Linda Demler, Drew Martin, Cecilia Height, Lisa Hinton, Amy Tidd, Dixie Stevens. For Information send an email to Linda Demler, (

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