Trashtastic Tuesday with Professor Sigurd Grava


garbage An urban planning friend recently sent me this link to The Tipping Point issue of URBAN magazine, a periodical put out by Columbia University.  In it, the editors poll faculty on the question: “If you could tip something, what would you tip?”  The experts were left to interpret “tip” as they wished.  Professor Sigurd Grava took it to mean tipping in the trashy sense and suggested we tip tipping policies.  Here’s an excerpt from his response:

“My proposal is to dramatically increase all tipping fees, thereby using them as the instrument to reform the entire production and distribution chain of our effluent society. This would apply particularly to consumer products. For example, disposable, single-use items that make our lives more convenient (from paper towels to flow pens) would have to be made of materials that disappear easily. Complex and large things, such as automobiles, would have to be so designed that they can be readily taken apart at the end and various materials segregated. Wrappers and packaging materials, the scourge of our civilization, would be replaced by thin but tough films that burn harmlessly or disintegrate elegantly.”

After reading this intriguing blurb, I contacted Professor Grava with a couple of follow up questions, which he was kind enough answers.  Happy Tuesday!

everydaytrash: How would heavy tipping fees move up the production chain to impact manufacturers and those who create the waste in the first place?

Grava: I believe recycling can only work effectively if it has a financial base (not just rules and regulations) by adding recovery to the production/distribution/marketing/usage chain — MONEY as the propellant. This can be tipping fees, special charges, built in value in the product, or any other mechanism. Large scale experimentation should allow us to determine which works best.

everydaytrash: In your international work, have you come across solid waste and recycling systems that could serve as role models for American cities?

Yes — the most effective process is SCAVENGING, at various levels of formal organization. It ranges from casual pick-up of material on the street (almost anywhere) to clans with monopoly rights to collect stuff, separate and recover on sites where these families live, and maintaining piggeries (in Egypt). There are obviously serious issues in sanitation, livability, and discrimination, but the process works.

Dump truck downloaded from the Waste News clip art archive.

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