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Trash in America: Moving from Destructive Consumption to a Zero-Waste System

February 12, 2018

The United States produces an immense amount of waste. Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S. – often only briefly – before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. This system of consumption and disposal results in the waste of precious resources and pollution that threatens our health, environment and global climate. Because the costs of this system fall on society at large – not on the producers and consumers that drive it – there are few direct incentives for change.To protect public health and the envi-ronment, conserve natural resources and landscapes, and address the mounting crisis of global warming, America should move toward an economic system characterized by zero waste. To achieve that goal, federal, state and local governments should enact policies and programs that incentivize shifting to a "circular," or "closed-loop," economy in which less is consumed and all materials are reused, recycled and composted in a continuous cycle. The U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet's total waste, though it is home to only 4 percent of the world's population. In 2014 alone, the U.S. threw out over 258 million tons of "municipal solid waste," or trash discarded by homes, businesses and institutions, such as univer-sities and libraries. A Columbia Univer-sity study estimates that Americans throw out 7 pounds of materials per person every day – that's 2,555 pounds of materials per American every year. Those materials make up only 3 percent of all solid waste in America – the vast majority is generated by industrial processes such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture.

The Campus Debit Card Trap: Are Bank Partnerships Fair to Students?

May 30, 2012

Examines partnerships between colleges and financial firms on campus ID, prepaid, debit, and financial aid disbursement cards and questions about fees, aggressive marketing strategies, and consumer protection. Lists best practices and recommendations.

Following the Money 2012: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

March 14, 2012

Assesses states' progress in offering comprehensive, one-stop access to searchable and downloadable databases of government spending via transparency 2.0 Web sites, including searchability, user-friendliness, breadth of data, and features such as mapping.

Trouble in Toyland: The 26th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

November 22, 2011

Presents findings on toys that may pose choking hazards, are excessively loud, or contain lead, phthalates, or other toxins. Outlines federal standards and makes recommendations for consumers, policy makers, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Making the Grade: A Scorecard for State Health Insurance Exchanges

October 18, 2011

Assesses states' progress in creating exchanges and grades established exchanges on policies regarding governance and structure, negotiating power and ability to drive value, consumer experience, and stability, including protection from adverse selection.

Tax-Increment Financing: The Need for Increased Transparency and Accountability in Local Economic Development Subsidies

October 11, 2011

Examines the risks to the public of creating tax-increment financing districts to encourage economic development. Proposes stronger guidelines for tax-increment financing program design, governance process, transparency, and developers' accountability.

High-Speed Rail: Public, Private or Both? Assessing the Prospects, Promise and Pitfalls of Public-Private Partnerships

July 18, 2011

Based on the outcomes of public-private partnerships in high-speed rail abroad, discusses pros and cons, including requirements, benefits, costs, and risks. Outlines key principles that should guide government's approach in designing such partnerships.

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace

June 24, 2011

Details issues for creating insurance exchanges, including accountability and transparency, power to negotiate, innovations in cost and quality, stability, consumer-friendly design, and coordination with public programs, with a focus on small businesses.

Tax Shell Game: How Much Did Offshore Tax Havens Cost You in 2010?

April 18, 2011

Provides an overview of corporations' and individuals' use of offshore tax havens and its impact on government revenue and services. Makes policy recommendations including tightening rules for U.S. multinational corporations and revising tax treaties.

Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Bank Fees and Fee Disclosure Policies

April 12, 2011

Examines disclosure of bank and credit union fees, including online, in compliance with the Truth in Savings Act; availability of free or low-cost checking accounts; and how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could help improve transparency.

Growing Up Toxic: Chemical Exposures and Increases in Developmental Disease

March 31, 2011

Explains how exposure to toxic chemicals can harm health and impair development, causing premature birth, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, asthma and allergies, and/or other problems. Suggests policy reforms.

Following the Money 2011: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

March 16, 2011

Grades states' progress in launching or enhancing transparency 2.0 Web sites that provide comprehensive, one-stop access to searchable and downloadable databases of government spending. Outlines benefits such as savings, challenges, and recommendations.