Meet Robert Reed, pioneer of Zero Waste movement

sep article

FOCUS – Zero Waste France non-profit organization first festival – aiming at developing a world without waste – took place in Paris from June 30 to July 2, 2016. Robert Reed, Zero Waste advocate all around the world and spokesman of the US cooperative company Recology is one the guests of honour of the festival. Before going to Paris, he stopped by Grenoble to give a conference at Grenoble Polytechnic Institute (INP) to present all the programs implemented in San Francisco by Recology and meet people in Grenoble. Meeting.




Robert Reed, porte-parole de la coopérative Recology. ©Alexandra Moullec

Robert Reed, spo­kes­man of the employee-owned com­pany Recology. © Alexandra Moullec –

Around fifty people of all ages gathe­red Tuesday June 28th at Grenoble Polytechnic Institute (Grenoble INP) to attend a confe­rence-debate orga­ni­zed by Zero Waste Grenoble non-pro­fit orga­ni­za­tion and G‑SCOP Laboratory of Grenoble INP.


Robert Reed was the hono­red guest of an eve­ning of peda­gogy, but above all of inter­ac­tion.


That for­mer jour­na­list spe­cia­li­zed in envi­ron­men­tal mat­ters who became the spo­kes­man of the coope­ra­tive com­pany Recolgy has been wor­king for twenty-three years to pro­mote a world without waste.


Robert Reed was a guest at the first edi­tion of Zero Waste France fes­ti­val taking place in Paris from June 30 to July 2, 2016 and he took advan­tage of his trip to France to stop by a few cities to pro­mote the Zero Waste approach and deve­lop the move­ment in Europe. An oppor­tu­nity to go over the Recology expe­riment, ini­tia­ted in San Francisco and all the emble­ma­tic pro­grams imple­men­ted by the com­pany over the years.The City by the Bay has become the zero waste bench­mark in the USA ads all over the world. Russia, Scotland, France, China… 62 coun­tries were repre­sen­ted at the event, to see all the work that has been done and to retrieve some ideas that could be imple­men­ted in their own coun­try.





© Recology

© Recology

Created in 1921, Recology was for­merly a waste dis­po­sal com­pany and became a coope­ra­tive com­pany pro­vi­ding pro­grammes and ser­vices to limit waste pro­duc­tion of busi­nesses and citi­zens. Its motto : “Reduce, reuse, recycle”. Door-to-door waste col­lec­ting, com­post plat­form, awa­re­ness pro­grammes… the com­pany works with San Francisco which sup­ports part of its actions, the citi­zens contri­bute for the rest. 173 people work at Recology, they get health and wel­fare bene­fits, a pen­sion and earn 25 dol­lars an hour.







What are the rates of Recology’s collection services ?


The typi­cal family in San Francisco pays 34 dol­lars a month for the ser­vice. We come four times a month and we col­lect all three contai­ners. It’s a lit­tle bit more than a dol­lar a day.


Poubelles à San Francisco. © Margo Moritz

San Francisco’s three bin sys­tem. © Margo Moritz

We sort the mate­rial into four­teen com­mo­di­ties and we sell the paper, the glass, the plas­tic, the alu­mi­num, the com­post … and all the reve­nue stream helps keep that cost rea­so­nable. The city regu­lates the pro­gram. Every month the city does accoun­ting to account the expenses, fuel, wages, insu­rance, uni­forms and then count all the reve­nues.


There’s a gap because the expenses are higher than the reve­nues and thirty four dol­lars per house, fills the gap. A black bin costs 25 dol­lars a month. The green bin is 4 dol­lars, and the blue bin is 4 dol­lars. If you only need the black bin picked up once a month you’ll be given an addi­tio­nal dis­count, this is the policy set by the city (« Pay as you throw »)


The more you throw, the more you pay. If you make a lot of gar­bage and you need big­ger contai­ners or you need us to come more often then you’re uti­li­zing more the ser­vice and you should pay a lit­tle bit more. At the same time, if you’re good, if you’re recy­cling a lot and redu­cing your waste, you pay less and so the fee struc­ture pro­vides both an envi­ron­men­tal and a finan­cial rea­son to be more envi­ron­men­tal and pro­duce less waste.



What rose your environmental awareness ?


I wor­ked as a jour­na­list for ten years before I got into the recy­cling busi­ness and I wrote about the envi­ron­ment as a jour­na­list […] It really star­ted when I was a small boy in school.


Robert Reed, porte-parole de la coopérative Recology. © Margo Moritz

Robert Reed, porte-parole de la coopé­ra­tive Recology. © Margo Moritz

I ope­ned my his­tory book and I saw an illus­tra­tion of a Native per­son and they were dig­ging a hole in the ground with the heel of their foot and they put fish bones in the hole, small hole, and then they put a corn seed in the fish bones and they cove­red the fish bones with some dirt. The tea­cher asked why did that, why did that Native per­son put the fish bone in there with the corn seed. The ans­wer was because this per­son unders­tood that the fish bones would pro­vide nou­rish­ment to the corn seed and would grow a tal­ler stock of corn and they could har­vest more corn and make more bread.


And it was an epi­phany for me. It’s an impor­tant les­son that society has for­got­ten and so I am trying to help us remem­ber.



Do you think people feel more concerned about environmental matters ?


I think « Demain » is a very impor­tant movie that is repre­sen­ta­tive of a new move­ment which is to high­light solu­tions. People have heard all about a lot of the pro­blems.


Demain, le film. DR

It is very dif­fi­cult to hear about the pro­blem on top of ano­ther pro­blem, envi­ron­men­tal pro­blem, higher tem­pe­ra­tures and mel­ting gla­ciers. It can be depres­sing and so a lot of young mili­tants and acti­vists unders­tand that this is the time when we need to share more infor­ma­tion about good solu­tions.


We just need more awa­re­ness, we need more people to know about them so that we can, as people, as a lar­ger popu­la­tion, demand these solu­tions to our govern­ments and get them imple­men­ted and start doing some­thing to slow down cli­mate change.



Interviewed by Alexandra Moullec



Solutions exist also in Grenoble




Zero Waste France non-pro­fit orga­ni­za­tion laun­ched the pro­cess in 2014. Zero Waste Grenoble non-pro­fit orga­ni­za­tion was crea­ted in January 2016 to demo­cra­tize the approach in Grenoble and its agglo­me­ra­tion.


Collective com­post boxes, ver­mi­com­post bins, worm givers for com­pos­ters web­site, Do it your­self work­shops… Grenoble and its agglo­me­ra­tion are not without ini­tia­tives to spur green habits.


In the fra­me­work of its com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paign cal­led “Moins jeter, la bonne idée” (Throw away less, the good sense), the Métro even laun­ched a Facebook page clas­si­fying all good ideas and best deals in Grenoble and around. In September, “La bonne pioche” (The right deck) – a gro­cery shop sel­ling local and orga­nic pro­ducts but above all bulk pro­ducts- will open its doors down­town.



Traduction from Speak English Center

Phone : +33 4 76 50 39 79

1 ave­nue du Vercors, 38600 Fontaine FRANCE


Grenoble Finaliste pour le concours de Capitale Verte
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