Caring for the environment, including addressing climate change, is an integral part of CalRecycle mission. The waste management hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, and environmentally sound disposal established in 1989 by the Integrated Waste Management Act not only preserves resources and the environment, it can significantly reduce the production of greenhouse gases. Recycling metals, glass, paper and plastic uses less energy and fewer natural resources than making products from mined or harvested virgin feedstock. Recycling organic materials is fundamental to the state’s recently enhanced efforts to reduce those GHG emissions that have the most immediate impact on climate, and to adapt to a changing climate. Recycling of all materials creates jobs and helps grow a sustainable, circular economy.
California’s infrastructure currently diverts about half of the state’s waste stream but is not large enough to meet the state’s climate goals and to handle the large amount of potentially recyclable materials collected by California’s local governments and their partners in the solid waste industry. The organics waste stream is the current focus of ongoing statewide efforts to reduce GHGs from solid waste handling, in accordance with SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), which sets targets for reduced emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) in various sectors of California’s economy, including solid waste, and gives CalRecycle broad authority to enact regulations to achieve those goals.
Recent changes in the global market for commodities means that California and the United States will have to recycle more materials at home. Toward that end, CalRecycle has grants and loans to build recycling infrastructure. This includes separate grant programs targeting Food Waste Prevention and Rescue; Fibers, Plastic and Glass; and Organics.
Compost and mulch help California adapt to climate change by reducing organic materials disposed in landfills where they form methane. Landfills remain one of the state’s largest sources of man-made methane. The soil amendments made from recycled organic materials can sequester carbon, conserve water, reduce erosion and runoff-related damage, and build healthy soil. Green roofs and rooftop gardens that use compost and mulch insulate buildings, provide shade, and reduce ambient air and building temperatures. Compost and mulch help remediate land post fire and are an integral component of sustainable communities, climate-appropriate landscaping, and building healthy soils to support and preserve California agriculture.
Assembly Bill (AB) 32 Scoping Plan
The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, Núñez, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006) established the world’s first comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG). In response to Assembly Bill 32, the California Air Resources Board developed the Scoping Plan which contains the main strategies California will use to reduce the GHGs that cause climate change. The proposed Scoping Plan was released on Oct. 15, 2008 and approved at a board hearing on Dec. 12, 2008.
CalRecycle’s AB 32 Scoping Plan Responsibilities
The Scoping Plan identifies CalRecycle as lead in developing recycling-based solutions aimed at reducing GHGs. Meeting AB 32 measures has the added benefit of assisting California in adapting to climate change. These measures include:
- (RW-1) Landfill Methane Control Measure (Discrete Early Action)
- (RW-2) Increasing the Efficiency of Landfill Methane Capture
- (RW-3) High Recycling/Zero Waste:
- Areas of Research/Opportunities for future GHG Emission Reductions:
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Landfill Gas
- Guidelines to conserve water, reduce green waste, reduce air pollution, and protect water quality.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grant and Loan Programs
In fiscal year 2014-15, CalRecycle established the GHG Reduction Fund (GGRF) Grant and Loan Program to provide financial incentives for capital investments in composting/digestion infrastructure, food waste prevention and rescue, and recycling manufacturing facilities that will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. CalRecycle also participates in implementation of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Health Soils Program (HSP) grant programs that incentivize increased compost use in agriculture.
This program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment— particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. As part of California and CalRecycle’s commitment to environmental justice, at least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities.
For More Information
- California Climate Change Portal. This site contains information on the impacts of climate change on California and the state’s policies relating to global warming. It is also the home for the California Climate Change Center, a “virtual ” research and information website operated by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.
- California Air Resources Board climate change website.
- Western Climate Initiative. A collaboration launched in February 2007 by the Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington to develop regional strategies to address climate change.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Established to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change.
- California Climate Adaptation Strategy. The 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy, updated in 2018, is the State’s roadmap for everything state agencies are doing and will do to protect communities, infrastructure, services, and the natural environment from climate change impacts. This holistic strategy primarily covers state agencies’ programmatic and policy responses across different policy areas, but it also discusses the ongoing related work to with coordinated local and regional adaptation action and developments in climate impact science.
- Cal-Adapt Climate Change Visualization Tools. Cal-Adapt is an online resource designed to provide a view of how climate change might affect California at the local level. Here you can work with visualization tools, access data, and participate in community sharing to contribute your own knowledge.