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From Waste to Worth: Insights from StopWaste's Timothy Burroughs

Updated: Jun 28

Welcome to the Capstone Conversation: A Talk with Timothy Burroughs from StopWaste Alameda


Introduction


Welcome to today's Capstone Conversation. We are delighted to have Timothy Burroughs, the Executive Director of StopWaste Alameda, with us. In this episode, Jared Asch and Timothy discuss environmental sustainability efforts, state policies, and how communities can actively participate in creating a circular economy.


About StopWaste


StopWaste is a government agency based in Alameda County that focuses on advancing environmental sustainability goals through policy, programs, and services. Established in 1976, the organization has been instrumental in helping jurisdictions within the county reduce waste, enhance recycling and composting efforts, and remove barriers to energy efficiency and building decarbonization.


Core Activities and Programs


StopWaste provides annual grants amounting to about a million dollars to nonprofits, small businesses, schools, and other institutions to support waste reduction. They also manage outreach campaigns to help community members use food more efficiently and avoid waste. Furthermore, they offer technical assistance to businesses like restaurants to transition to reusable food-ware and other sustainable practices. They also have a robust environmental education program for K-12 schools across the county.


Timothy Burroughs Journey


Timothy Burroughs has been the Executive Director of StopWaste for three years. With a long background in environmental policymaking and community quality-of-life improvements, Timothy's journey began as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Inspired to scale up his efforts, he worked at the U.S. EPA in D.C. He served the City of Berkeley for around 15 years, overseeing numerous environmental programs and climate action planning.


Key Policy Areas Discussion


One of the highlights of the episode was the discussion of several key policy areas:


- SB 1383: A greenhouse gas reduction law passed in 2016 mandates a 75% reduction in organic waste going to landfills by 2025. It also requires a three-bin system across California for compost, recycling, and landfill waste.


- SB 343: This 2021 law, authored by Senator Ben Allen, seeks to standardize the recycling symbol to reduce consumer confusion. It ensures that the chasing arrow symbol only applies to genuinely recyclable materials.


- SB 54: Also authored by Senator Ben Allen and passed in 2022, this law aims to reduce single-use packaging and plastic food-ware by 25% by 2032. It requires that all single-use items be recyclable or compostable by that year and includes creating a $5 billion fund to address existing plastic pollution.


Practical Advice for Consumers


Timothy provides practical advice for reducing waste and recycling more effectively:


- Check local resources like the StopWaste website or the RE:Source app to understand what can be recycled, composted, or should go to landfill.

- Encourage businesses and institutions you frequent to adopt a three-bin system for waste sorting.

- Seek out reusable options instead of relying on single-use items.

- Donate usable items to thrift stores or specific programs like job interview wardrobes for students.


Conclusion


StopWaste and similar organizations aim to create a more equitable and circular economy where waste is minimized, materials are reused, and environmental benefits are maximized. By supporting state and local policies and improving infrastructure, we can make it easier for communities to make sustainable choices. Timothy Burrough highlighted that while there is still a long way to go, he is optimistic about progress.



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