Technologies we let loose on the world a half-century ago have flourished on every corner of the globe, but nowhere so dismally as here at home. Instead of using these as springboards to even greater achievement, we plucked at the apocryphal “low hanging fruit” while listening to the woeful pleas of the purported victims of that dreaded institution-bound affliction, “stranded investment.” Worse still, we let them get away with it, acting instead as if we were waiting for another technological revolution…what in baseball amounts to counting on someone to belt a home run rather than playing “little ball,” whose industrial equivalent is known internationally as kaizen…roughly translated as “continuous improvement.”
Part of the problem may be laziness, or perhaps more to the point, our innate tendency to rest on our laurels. But there’s another aspect of our own making that is more insidious, and here I’ll bring my thoughts to bear on MSW management.
By its very nature, the notion of zero waste implies the blasting of a home run best accomplished through some form of accounting mummery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a card-carrying advocate of wresting every ounce of value from whatever resource we have available to us, but this is not accomplished by the somewhat arbitrary assignment of a level of achievement such as 50% or 75% or 90% diversion from a landfill. Yet, that is the metric we’ve chosen to express success.
Here’s where my muddled thoughts reach an uncomfortable impasse…how best to determine value and achieve success?
Frankly, I haven’t an answer other than to suggest for starters that accounting practices aren’t the key. Rather, I think, we have to look at ways to reward innovation, but this is not going to happen as long as we are held captive by outmoded metrics and the evils of stranded investment. Every resource is subject to any number of opportunities for its best employment, a notion that implies a diversity of best management practices rather than a regulation-bound scheme for achieving a politicized goal.