The right decisions now for a Zero Waste Future.
Throughout its long history, Urban Ore has been active in the politics of recycling, participating in countless activist and advocacy actions. It has helped write several influential pieces of legislation that became law either through voter or policymaker approvals.
The Berkeley Burn Plant Papers
Urban Ore’s first advocacy task was to defeat a mass-burn garbage incinerator planned for Berkeley. Conventional wisdom said only 35% of total discards could be recycled, so the rest could be burned to generate electricity.
Garbage-to-energy power was called “renewable” energy, carried federal incentives, and some incinerator salespeople even called it recycling. Between 7 and 9 incinerators were planned for the San Francisco Bay Area, with one for Berkeley. Recyclers saw the burner as a competitor for the resources and wanted to stop it. In the end they couldn’t persuade City Council to stop, so they went over the Council’s head to the voters. “Give Recycling a Chance” was the campaign slogan. More than 60% of the citizens voted for a moratorium on incineration.
This book, “Dan Knapp’s yellow book that seems be everywhere” according to an incinerator proponent, gave citizens the straight info on what was wrong then – and is still wrong now – with burning resources. It includes analysis, news reports of incinerators’ problems, and quotes from research. Unfortunately, much of the information may still be current even though the book was published in 1981, before personal computers.
The Lone Recycler
Activism can be fun. After recyclers in Berkeley defeated a proposed incinerator in 1982, garbage-to-energy plants were still being proposed for many locations around the country. So Dan Knapp and Mary Lou Van Deventer laughed over a lot of dinners with illustrator Nancy Gorrell and architect Mark Gorrell, during which the foursome wrote a comic book storyline based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. Nancy Gorrell, a children’s illustrator, brought it to life and made it fun.
The story: Ernest Worth, aka The Lone Recycler, rafts down the Slobberg waste stream with his robotic engine companion TinToe into the maw of Ashley Burns’s incinerator. There they meet Dr. Frightenstein and industrialist Poly Vinyl, who seduces The Lone Recycler and nearly diverts him from his mission to recycle everything. Discouraged and confused, Ernest regains his bearings while buffing his muscles on farmer Frank Fields’ organic farm. He returns to Slobberg hoping to work with his real girlfriend, Prudence Penny, to organize the community and turn it into Wonderberg. Can they succeed? Is every unsung recycler The Lone Recycler?
In peer review, one teacher said the images were too complex for children. But Nancy had worked in childcare for many years and disagreed. The test: when we later handed the comic to children, they tended to curl up with it, and we didn’t hear from them for an hour or so. The comic includes a coloring page and several puzzles.