Image - speaker photos and recycle logo
Past Event

Is Recycling the Answer for Toxic Products?

From packaging and toys to carpet and cookware, many everyday items we purchase and use are made from recycled materials.

On the one hand, the movement toward using recycled materials to create new stuff is a good thing: it allows reusable materials to have a second life instead of going to landfill, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the extraction of raw materials. But all too often, the stuff we use is made with highly toxic ingredients—heavy metals, flame retardants, and even coal byproducts—that can pose serious harm to our health and the environment.

When products made from these harmful ingredients are re-made into new products, the benefits of recycling are pitted against dangers to our well-being. Why are these harmful chemicals used, and how can policy makers and regulators address the tensions between reducing waste and protecting our health?

Join us in-person or online for a special edition of "The Michelle Meow Show" taking a look at improving our health and the world's health.

About the Speakers

Meredith Williams is the director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. She was appointed to the position by Governor Gavin Newsom on December 19, 2019. Williams joined DTSC in 2013 as deputy director of the department’s Safer Consumer Products Program to lead the implementation of California’s groundbreaking effort to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products. She has expertise in research and development, product management, and operations for Fortune 500 companies in the technology, consumer product, and chemical sectors, including 3M and Applied Materials, a leading semiconductor manufacturer. Following her work in the private sector, Williams held a number of leadership positions at the nonprofit San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nationally recognized center for science in support of aquatic resource management. Meredith strives for collaborative solutions to complex problems and has a track record of championing interdisciplinary project management approaches. She holds a B.A. degree from Yale University and a doctorate in physics from North Carolina State University.

Mark Murray is lead advocate of Californians Against Waste and oversees the operation of both Californians Against Waste and Californians Against Waste Foundation. Murray joined the organization in 1987 and was appointed the executive director in 1994. Murray is recognized as one of the environmental community's leading experts on waste prevention and recycling policies. Over the past 20 years, Murray has helped draft many of California's solid waste and recycling laws. Murray has served on numerous local, state and national environmental advisory boards and commissions.

Moderator Debbie Raphael is the director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and believes that cities can take bold action to address environmental harm. A scientist by training and public servant by profession, Debbie has spent most of her career working in government to ensure that everyone has an equal right to a safe and healthy environment. As director, Raphael leads the city’s efforts to address climate change and build resilience. Under the leadership of Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, she helped pass a first-in-nation ban on toxic flame retardants in new furniture sold in San Francisco; implemented a new, accelerated goal of carbon neutrality by 2040; and updated the city’s Climate Action Plan with collaboration from residents, community-based organizations, and businesses to include specific goals and strategies in critical sectors of energy, transportation, materials and biodiversity. Named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in climate policy, Debbie is a frequent keynote speaker at international climate conferences and a national spokeswoman on environmental issues. 


This event is organized in partnership with the San Francisco Department of the Environment as part of the City of San Francisco’s 4th annual Climate Action Month.

April 14, 2022

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Roni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Image - Meredith Williams

Meredith Williams

 Director, California Department of Toxic Substances Control

Image - Mark Murray

Mark Murray

Executive Director, Californians Against Waste

Image - Debbie Raphael

Debbie Raphael

Director, San Francisco Department of the Environment—Moderator

Image - Michelle Meow

Introduction by Michelle Meow

Producer and Host, "The Michelle Meow Show," KBCW TV and Podcast; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors