City and consultants Zero Waste Humboldt launched the planning process for a zero waste action plan at a meeting attended by dozens at the Adorni Center where locals had the opportunity to give their feedback on what the city could do to encourage both residents and businesses to reduce waste.

Maggie Gainer, a Zero Waste Humboldt board member, said the goal is to create a circular economy where waste materials that are recycled can be reused as raw materials by industry instead of being shipped to poorer countries that are increasingly refusing to accept waste from the West as their standards become as stringent as countries like the U.S.

“We had an easy out for a while,” Gainer said. “Garbage is like water, it runs to the point of least resistance and that means the poorest countries in the world. What we don’t sort here, we’ll have people under horrible conditions sorting now in Malaysia, Vietnam.”

Those who attended the meeting had the opportunity to write their suggestions regarding what the city could do to reduce waste in terms of getting youth involved, passing local ordinances and working with manufacturers who could get their raw materials from what the county recycles.

Suggestions included opening up a government-run compost waste pickup; supporting small businesses that can use the county’s recycled waste as raw material; working with Eureka City Schools to limit waste; and educating residents on proper waste disposal.

A lot of people are throwing things that aren’t recyclable, such as coffee cups, and difficult-to-recycle items, such as plastic straws, in with their recycling. That cross-contamination ends up leading to more waste ending up in the landfill. “When in doubt, throw it out,” Gainer said.

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