In the fireworks that have erupted over the leadership of the Reform Party, waste issues, unfortunately, have been lost. Even as the party staged its convention in August, it was split in two over its presidential candidates: staunch conservative Pat Buchanan and quantum physicist John Hagelin. Unable to focus on one leader or a coherent message, the Reform Party is expected to tally only 2 percent to 4 percent of the public's vote.
“The reform party has a lot of confusion — they don't have a standard bearer,” says Bill Sells, government relations manager for the Environmental Industry Associations, Washington, D.C. “As for Pat Buchanan, a lot of independent-minded voters don't want a conservative.”
Buchanan has made virtually no platform promise on waste issues or the environment at large. He did say, however, in a strongly worded case for campaign finance reform, that “the First Amendment right of advocacy must not be abridged. Any group willing to disclose its affiliation, be it the Sierra Club or National Right to Life, must remain free to argue its case at the bar of public opinion.”
Hagelin, in contrast, is more concerned about global environmental issues, given his scientific background. Yet he, too, has not taken a stand on any particular waste issue. He does, however, promote sustainable and organic agriculture methods “that harness and enhance the natural fertility of the soil to produce abundant, nourishing and healthy crops,” a stance that could affect the composting industry. But with Hagelin's presidential bid likely to remain overshadowed, the point probably is moot.
On the other end of the political spectrum is long-time consumer advocate Ralph Nader, undisputed leader of the Green Party. Nader does not campaign on any particular waste issue, but he does support certain initiatives that affect the waste industry. Chief among these concerns is Nader's support of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the 7 percent reduction in emissions during the next decade. Although hailed by environmentalists, lowering emissions certainly would raise the cost of running a waste fleet. “Continuing our dependence on subsidized fossil fuels,” Nader says, “will mean more unnecessary air pollution, more dirty water [and] more toxic waste.” He also supports recycling initiatives, and alternative paper sources such as kenaf.
Although the Reform Party has been getting the headlines lately, the Green Party actually has a better chance of pulling in votes this year — largely because of the Reform Party's confusion and the integrity questions that have plagued Gore, once seen as an untarnished environmental advocate. According to various polls, the Green Party could garner 3 percent to 7 percent of the vote — either equaling or bettering the Reform Party. This might be a problem for Gore. “This could have an impact in states like California,” Sells says. “Nader could pull 6 percent of the vote in California, and it would all be coming from Gore.”
When it endorsed Gore, the Sierra Club acknowledged this fact. The group made a point of saying that it recognized Nader's record of work for the environment, but that the “urgency of defeating Texas Governor George Bush [was] an additional reason for endorsing Vice President Gore.”
In an ironic twist, the organization made a case similar to Buchanan's — urging for open communication from those groups and candidates now on the edges of the presidential campaigns. A statement from the Sierra Club's board of directors argued that “serious third-party candidates be allowed to participate in presidential debates.”
Although municipal and hazardous wastes remain a non-issue among the struggling third and fourth parties, one thing is clear — the parties want to be heard.