Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • What I Learned Working on Disaster Debris Removal

    As debris and ashes are cleared away, animals return and new plants spring forth.

    It’s been a year of firsts for me. As the newest information officer in CalRecycle’s Office of Public Affairs, it’s my job to tell CalRecycle’s stories. But before joining the Office of Public Affairs team, I was the finance chief for the Camp Fire debris removal project. I’ll have a lifetime of stories to tell about my work on the Camp Fire—and the first is how this challenge was the best I’ve ever accepted.

    Last spring, I joined CalRecycle’s Wildfire Debris Removal team in Paradise, California. I had never been to Paradise, but I was very familiar with the Camp Fire. Like many Northern Californians, during November 2018, I had choked on the thick smoke from the country’s most devastating fire in a century. CalRecycle is often tasked with organizing, managing, implementing, and overseeing debris removal operations in support of local governments. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived to help oversee the project’s finances, but I found a dedicated team of cleanup crews that go the extra mile to help homeowners and communities recover.

    Here are a few things I learned while working at the Camp Fire debris removal project in Paradise. 

    Results Are Immediately Visible

    before, during, and after debris removal.

    CalRecycle transforms properties after a fire:
    From a disaster area riddled with invisible toxicity to a cleared property on which a family can rebuild their lives.

    Office denizens at CalRecycle go to work every day and have a sense that their work is making a difference, but it’s rare that they get to see it in real time. During debris removal operations, crews on the ground experience the immediate changes they make in the lives of community members.

    Residents saw everything they own destroyed. Our work gives them back a property that is certified and ready for rebuilding their new life. We give them a way forward.

    We Aren’t Alone

    Debris removal operations is more than just an interagency effort. In addition to the California Office of Emergency Services, nearly every CalEPA BDO had representatives that aided with the CalRecycle mission. CalTrans, CHP, California Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, local jurisdictions, and FEMA collaborated on the cleanup as well.

    There is also a critical public-private partnership with experienced contractors and consultants adding their expertise to the operation.

    While public-sector employees take the lead, we couldn’t finish the work without the added experience of technical experts from the private sector.

    At its peak in Butte County, thousands of people were working toward a single goal. Only about a hundred were state employees. 

    “Second Responders” Are Truly Heroic

    Debris removal crews hard at work.

    Even though the work is long and tiring, the cleanup crews never got jaded. Project managers take the time to recognize their efforts at weekly safety meetings, and it’s clear the crews care about helping Paradise recover. When asked to do so, debris removal crews sift through portions of ash looking for heirloom jewelry, or the remains of a vintage blacksmith shop, or anything left of a flower pot garden.

    Crew members go beyond just removing debris and have taken to heart the mission of helping people search for their lost treasures and rebuild their lives. 

    The Environment Is Fragile, yet Resilient

    Natural disasters leave a scar across the landscape, but if there is one thing that’s clear, it’s that plant life and wildlife bounce back more easily than homes and businesses. On an April visit to the Woolsey/Hills fire site in Los Angeles County, the super bloom was in full force, and it was nearly impossible to see the burn scar from the fire that happened just a few months before. In both Northern and Southern California, great care was taken to do no more damage to the environment.

    In addition to allowing homeowners to rebuild, CalRecycle’s mission for wildfire cleanup is to remove debris that threatens public health and the environment. This allows the region’s flora and fauna to recover more quickly. 

    It’s Worth It Because We Care

    Playground and home rebuilding

    Sometimes the days are long. Sometimes your own bed and your loved ones are just too far away. But knowing that the work you’re doing is necessary and matters, gets you up the next day.

    There is a shared mission across agencies and sectors. Whether one chooses to make a career out of disaster recovery or volunteers to support the mission on a temporary basis, the experience will positively affect how you see your work and impact on the world.

    Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Dec 30, 2019

  • Video: Paradise Fire Cleanup

    CalRecycle-managed crews are making steady progress clearing fire debris in Butte County in the wake of November's Camp Fire. As of Monday, 3,327 properties have been cleared, and 673 of those have been inspected and received final clearance for rebuilding. Here is video footage of cleanup operations at Paradise Elementary School earlier this month. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on May 30, 2019

  • Spotlight: 5 Projects, Laws, and Programs to Watch in 2019

    CalRecycle has a busy year ahead as we work to protect public health and the environment. Check out these new projects, laws, and programs, and stay tuned for regular updates.

    CalRecycle’s Role in Wildfire Debris Cleanup and Recovery

    California suffered several significant wildfires in 2018, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services tasked CalRecycle with overseeing the cleanup at the Woolsey and Hill fires in LA and Ventura counties and the Camp Fire in Paradise (Butte County). Read about the cleanup process at our Wildfire Debris Cleanup and Recovery webpage, and check our dashboard maps (Woolsey-Hill fires map and Camp Fire map) for the latest updates.

    New Recycling and Disposal Facility Reporting

    Former Governor Edmund G. Brown signed AB 901 (Gordon, Chapter 746, Statutes of 2015) into law to change how the management of organics, recyclable material, and solid waste are reported to CalRecycle. While the statewide waste characterization reports help CalRecycle better understand the composition of our waste streams, these new reports will help CalRecycle better track and analyze the flow of materials throughout California. CalRecycle will transition away from the current Disposal Reporting System (DRS) to the new Recycling and Disposal Reporting System (RDRS). The registration period for entities required to report via RDRS begins April 1. CalRecycle is scheduled to host workshops on March 20 and 21 to help reporting entities understand their obligations under the new system. See the Recycling and Disposal Facility Reporting AB 901 webpage.

    Statewide Expansion of Organics Recycling

    SB 1383 builds upon California’s leading commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by reducing the amount of organic waste sent to landfills. The regulations will go into effect in 2022, and the formal rulemaking process is underway. Check out the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP): Organic Waste Methane Emissions Reductions webpage to learn more about the intent of the law. Check out our SLCP rulemaking webpage for more information.

    Pharmaceutical and Sharps Waste Stewardship

    Unwanted and improperly managed pharmaceutical drugs and needles (often called “sharps”) present significant public health, safety, and environmental problems at the end of their useful lives. In 2018, Brown signed SB 212 (Jackson, Chapter 1004, Statutes of 2018) into law to establish safe and convenient disposal options for pharmaceutical drugs and home-generated sharps waste. CalRecycle started the informal regulatory process in January 2019. Read more at the Pharmaceutical and Sharps Waste Stewardship webpage.

    Sustainable Packaging for the State of California

    Brown also signed into law SB 1335 (Allen, Chapter 610, Statues of 2018) , which prohibits food service facilities located in a state-owned facility, operating on or acting as a concessionaire on state-owned property, or under contract to provide food service to a state agency from dispensing prepared food using food service packaging unless it is either recyclable, reusable, or compostable. The first step to implementing this law is clarifying what is reusable, recyclable, or compostable through the regulation process. Read about the law on the Sustainable Packaging for the State of California webpage. The first informal rulemaking workshop is April 10.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 21, 2019