Category Archives: Recycle waste


“Death by Design” is our film on Oct 9.

This film exposes the extent to which the booming electronics industry damages the environment and impacts public health in many countries where our devices are made and materials are extracted and processed. But, it also helps the viewer make more informed choices and join effective channels of activism.

Consumers love – and live on – their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information.

The numbers are staggering. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone. But this revolution has a dark side, hidden from most consumers.

In an investigation that spans the globe investigates the hidden underbelly of the electronics industry and reveals how even the smallest devices have deadly environmental and health costs.

Searching Electronics Waste pile

From the intensely secretive factories in China, to a ravaged New York community and the high tech corridors of Silicon Valley, the film tells a story of environmental degradation, of health tragedies, and the fast approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability.

Some of the film’s heroes are whistleblowers, innovative recyclers, and a small Irish company that builds a fair-trade/sustainable computer.

The 73-minute film has SDH captions and will be followed by an optional discussion.


From Toilet to Tap

Remember the 1995 movie “Waterworld”? It was set in a future when the raised sea levels covered all continents on Earth after the melting of polar ice caps. At the beginning of the film, Kevin Costner’s character urinated into a plastic cup, ran it through a homemade purifying system consisting of a series of tubes and a pump, and drank the effluent that came out of it. I was so grossed out by that scene that I never watched the rest of the movie. I wasn’t alone. This “yuck” factor has been one of the biggest hurdles for communities that have considered direct potable reuse (DPR) of municipal wastewater (sewage), despite the fact that the technology has long been available to treat wastewater to the level that is safe for drinking. If you feel the same way about DPR as I did before, now is time to do some rethinking.

There was not a drop of rain in Walnut Creek last month. We had some rain in January, but how much more rain and snow we will get this winter in Northern California is anybody’s guess. The water rationing we lived through in the recent past is likely to happen again. Yet we continue to use drinking water for almost everything, including flushing toilets and watering lawns and plants.

In 2016, Central Sanitary District cleaned an average of 32 million gallons of wastewater each day. Only 10 percent of it was recycled. For years in California, the lingering drought and population growth have sent public officials scrambling for more drinking water supply, and tremendous efforts were made at state and local levels in an attempt to make potable reuse of recycled water a reality.

Those efforts culminated in Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of a new law last October that requires the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt, by the end of 2023, uniform water recycling criteria for DPR through “raw water augmentation” – adding treated wastewater into a system of pipelines or aqueducts that deliver raw water to a drinking water treatment plant that provides water to a public water system.

Up till now, the planned use of recycled water to supplement drinking water supplies has been limited to indirect potable reuse (IPR). The difference between direct and indirect potable reuse is that the IPR process includes an environmental buffer and DPR doesn’t. In IPR, highly treated municipal wastewater is injected into groundwater basins or discharged into surface water reservoirs that are used as sources of drinking water. The recycled water remains within these natural bodies for some period of time until pumped out by a drinking water treatment plant. Using recycled water to replenish groundwater basins has been practiced in California for over 50 years, primarily in Southern California.

To date, according to a report published by the State Water Board, there are eight approved projects in the state that use recycled water to replenish groundwater for potable reuse, and more than a dozen projects are being planned by local groundwater management agencies and water utilities. However, using recycled water to augment surface water reservoirs has not been implemented in California because of the public perception factor.

Currently there are only two DPR projects operating worldwide as a permanent source of drinking water. One was in Windhoek, Namibia, which started operation in 1968 during a prolonged drought, and continued as a source of supply after the drought emergency passed. The other project is in Big Spring, Texas. The regional water agency there began to consider using treated wastewater as a new water source during an extended drought cycle that started in the 1990s. Its DPR facility began operating in May 2013, serving several cities including Big Spring, Odessa and Midland. However, no DPR regulations exist today in the United States at the federal or the state level. The projects that were, or are being, approved by the state of Texas have been evaluated on a caseby-case basis.

California’s effort to develop statewide standards for DPR began in 2010 when the Legislature enacted legislation that directed the Department of Public Health to investigate the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable use, and to report back to the Legislature by the end of 2016. The responsibility was later transferred to the State Water Board.

The new law signed by the governor last October was the result of that five-year feasibility study. So, 22 years after the film “Waterworld” grossed me out, California has moved one step closer to ensuring that treated municipal wastewater is safe for drinking. And we’re reaching the point that the concept of “toilet to tap” should no longer repel us.

This article first appeared in the January 24, 2018 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Jennifer Mu can be reached at barnhartmu8833@

Addicted To Plastic


WHEN: Wed, Jan 10, 7:00-8:30 pm

WHERE: Peacock Hall

DESCRIPTION:  Plastic is everywhere — for better and worse: floating ocean swirls as big as Texas, artificial organs, water bottles, and wind turbines. This film explores the history of plastic and how it came to dominate our lives. From styrofoam cups to automobiles, plastics are perhaps the most ubiquitous and versatile material ever invented. No invention in the past 100 years has had more influence and presence. But this progress has come at a cost.

No ecosystem or segment of human activity has escaped the grasp of plastic. ADDICTED TO PLASTIC is a global journey to investigate an industry worth $375 billion/year in the US alone. Review what we really know about the material of a thousand uses and why there’s so much of it. On the way we discover a toxic legacy and about some of its effects on our health.

We also meet some men and women dedicated to cleaning it up — groups dedicated to physically cleaning up the beaches and the oceans. We learn from experts about cutting edge solutions in recycling plastic and what actually happens when newer plastics biodegrade. These solutions will provide viewers with a new perspective about our future with plastic. It’s also an opportunity to examine our role in a throwaway culture.

85 minutes long. Captions available.


In recent years there has been considerable industry pushback against research demonstrating the adverse health effects of plastics.

Tips for reducing your exposure to the toxins in plastic

  • Use glass cups for drinking.
  • Instead of plastic water bottles, use stainless steel or glass.
  • Use glass containers for food storage.
  • Never heat food in plastic containers.
  • Use parchment paper or beeswax fabric instead of plastic wrap.
  • Avoid canned foods, as the linings typically contain BPA or a BPA alternative.
  • Read labels on cosmetics and personal care products, and avoid those that contain phthalates in the ingredients list.
  • Skip the receipt, as most have a BPA or equivalent coating.
  • Choose wood or fabric toys for children instead of plastic.

Recycling Center Tour – Wed Oct 18

Wed Oct 18, 2017
Recycling Center Tour
9:45 Depart from Gateway lot
Reservation required.

Join Rossmoor’s Trash Talkers and other members of Sustainable Rossmoor for a private tour of our recycling processing plant in Pittsburg on the morning of Wednesday, October 18. We’ll visit the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery Center, whose commitment is to recover natural resources, save energy, and preserve the environment. It’s the nation’s top-ranked recycling plant for resource recovery. The tour is about 45 minutes and begins with photos and a talk about the history and workings of the plant while sitting down. Then there’s a walk through the facility. It is handicap accessible; plan to wear closed-toed shoes. Hard hats will be provided.

This plant processes recyclables from almost all of Contra Costa, receiving over 100 tons daily. The contents of our blue recycling bins get sorted by hand and by machine and made ready to send to buyers who will make them into something new again. See trucks as big as some houses dump their contents; then watch cardboard, plastic bottles, and tin cans respond to giant magnets, blowers, tumblers, and travel down conveyor belts. It makes it easy to see why we are being asked not to bag our recyclables anymore; the whole process is smoother when our items are loose.

For a preview, of what to expect, here’s a 3 minute video:

We will depart the Farmers Market corner of Gateway parking lot at 9:45 AM and return about noon. For more information, or to join a carpool, contact: Carol Weed at or 510-409-4055.

RecycleSmart will be at Rossmoor’s Earth Day April 21

Sustainable Rossmoor is proud to welcome RecyleSmart (Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority) as major sponsor of Earth Day on Friday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in and around the Fireside Room at Gateway Clubhouse and plaza area.

RecycleSmart is the solidwaste authority that services Rossmoor. Its service area also includes Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville and large areas of Contra Costa County adjacent to those municipalities.

RecycleSmart contracts with Republic Services to pick up and handle Rossmoor’s trash. There are three categories of trash– what goes to the landfill (black containers), what can be recycled (blue containers) and what is organic and can be composted (green containers). Currently, Rossmoor does not have pick up for composting. Everything that could be going into green containers for composting is put into the black landfill containers.

RecycleSmart provides colorful placards that can be placed in trash enclosures. The placards graphically indicate what goes into which container. Many trash enclosures in Rossmoor don’t have these useful placards. If residents find that the enclosures near them don’t have placards, they can contact their Mutual directors to request them. Mutual directors can also be contacted about having a composting pick up in Rossmoor.

Outreach programs

RecycleSmart does much more than just pick up trash. It has many outreach programs for recycling and composting. Its composting program recently received the 2016 Composting Program of the Year award by the U.S. Composting Council. RecycleSmart conducts multiple free composting workshops in many locations throughout their service area and offers various size composting bins for sale.

School outreach programs are very important to RecycleSmart. As its website states, “Our team provides free technical assistance to public and private schools, school districts and custodial and food services staff, including on-site training. We also provide free recycling and organics containers, free signs and stickers, lesson plans, school assemblies and field trips and other resources. Plus, we recognize schools that significantly reduce waste with awards of up to $1,500.”

Every year some lucky high school seniors are awarded scholarships of up to $4,000 by RecycleSmart in partnership with Mt. Diablo Recycling, the Pittsburg company that handles that city’s recycling. Students submit an application describing how they have implemented a waste reduction program or made significant contributions to reducing waste at their school.

RecycleSmart also rewards businesses for their recycling efforts. In 2016, 12 local businesses received awards including Whole Foods and Lunardi’s in Walnut Creek. Two Walnut Creek restaurants also received awards – Mona’s Burgers & Shakes and Walnut Creek Yacht Club.

For information, visit the RecyleSmart website at <www.>. Be sure to stop by the RecycleSmart exhibit in the Fireside Room on Earth Day and hear the talk “What Goes In Your Recycle Bin?” in Multipurpose Room 1. Earth Day will be a well-attended event and parking fills up quickly, so busing, carpooling, biking and walking are encouraged. Visit the Sustainable Rossmoor website at <>.

By Barbara Coenen, Earth Day correspondent

Article reprinted from Rossmoor News, vol 51, No. 1 – 15MAR2017