An Environment Management Capacity Building Technical Assistance Project Sponsored by MoEF Government of India  

Web posted Friday, March 12, 2004

New uses for recycled materials being found
Of the Courier-Post

Media attention has recently gone to scientists, who have announced new discoveries about the planet Mars. While below the media's radar screen, the work being done by Dr. John Meister and his colleagues in recycling is essential to life on Earth.

While Meister believes scientists in other fields of research are striving to "make a positive contribution," his work is centered on "doing things to make the world better."

Meister will be the guest speaker at today's meeting of the Mark Twain Section of the American Chemical Society, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in Continental Cement's main office building. Meister, a member of the Forest Products Research Center, will discuss "abstract technical solutions to social-technical problems, such as the warming of the planet by the greenhouse effect and the loss of energy supplies caused by the consumption of fossil fuels." The meeting is open to the public and anyone interested in recycling.

"My focus is developing procedures that will convert trash into useful items," said Meister, an associate professor of analytical and polymer chemistry at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

The need for recyclable products is growing. According to Meister, in 1988 the average daily trash output per person was approximately 3 pounds. That average has now grown to about 5 pounds.

That growth is due to "more people and more materialism," which is based on products "generated without a life cycle focus," rather than items made of materials which "can be put back into the system," said Meister.

The public is not as conscious of recycling as it was even a decade or so ago.

"Society's lack of attention is allowing problems to get bigger," said Meister.

While efforts to protect the environment may not be at the forefront of people's minds, Meister says that doesn't mean a safe environment isn't wanted.

"When sufficient economic resources are present, and people feel their survival is not at stake, they want a good environment around them," he said. "In the poorest countries, where people are on the edge of survival, they want a nice environment, but they also want to be fed today. They will take being fed over being in a place that is environmentally benign."