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

  • Eight Ways to Stretch Your Food While Quarantined

    The average family of four spends $150 on uneaten food each year

     

    Most of us are sheltering-in-place right now, having already stocked up on non-perishable canned and frozen food. Since every foray into society could bring exposure to COVID-19, consider ways to maximize the food you have to last as long as possible and save you trips to the grocery store.  It will also help you reduce food waste, a major contributor of greenhouse gases coming out of landfills.

    Here are eight ways to stretch the food you’ve saved:

    1. Make a double batch of sauces, stews, beans, and casseroles, and save the rest in the freezer for a future weeknight dinner with zero cooking.
    2. Create a scrap bag in your freezer to use to make stock for soups and sauces. I have a scrap bag in my freezer full of food scraps. Any time you peel a carrot, slice an onion, or cut the edges off a bell pepper, you can divert the leftovers from the garbage into the scrap bag kept in the freezer. Once the scrap bag is full, simmer the contents with water over low heat for about an hour, then save the liquid for a tasty stock to make soups and sauces. Cook rice, beans, or quinoa in it to add extra flavor. 
    3. Keep bread in the freezer and defrost a slice or two when you need them.
    4. Dried beans are cheap and freeze easily. You can cook a double batch in your crock pot and freeze half for an easy meal.
    5. Soups hold up well when they’re stored in containers in the freezer. You can even freeze individual servings for a quick meal on demand.
    6. Buy meat in bulk, divide it into single portions, and defrost as you need them. Meats can be cheaper in bulk and often have less packaging.
    7. Fruits like berries are simple to freeze. Place them on a cookie sheet, freeze them overnight, and transfer them to an empty container to store in the freezer. Frozen berries liven up morning smoothies.
    8. Butter freezes well and is easy to defrost when you get the baking itch. It’s also often cheaper to buy in bulk.

       

      I hope these tips are as useful to you. To learn more about preventing food waste, please visit Save The Food. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Resource Library and CalRecycle’s Resource Directory.

    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Mar 23, 2020

  • CalRecycle—Uniquely Qualified for Disaster Recovery

     

    After a catastrophic wildfire, getting “back to normal” is nearly impossible for any single property owner to handle. A family’s ability to rebuild—and the livability of the neighborhood—depends on what the family next door does, as well as the family next to them.

    Todd Thalamer looking at debris removal project progress.

    Todd Thalhamer at the site of the 2007 Boles Fire in Weed, Siskiyou County.

     

    “Who wants to be the first house that’s developed, when you look out the window and all you see is nothing but ash and debris?” asks CalRecycle engineer Todd Thalhamer, the architect of a program that has cleaned up nearly 20,000 homes in the last decade. “When it comes right down to it, it’s a psychological issue—and a property value issue. If you clean up everything, you jump-start a community.”

    The Integrated Waste Management Board, which later morphed into CalRecycle, started the Consolidated Debris Removal Program in 2007 to clean up the aftermath of the Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe. The majority of properties with affected homes drained into Angora Creek, which runs right into Lake Tahoe. This created an urgency to clean up debris before winter arrived and it washed into the famously clear and pristine lake. Crews were on the ground quickly. Firefighters extinguished most of the blaze by July 4. Ten days later, debris removal crews had the first home site cleared. The whole response effort was completed in three months.

    Safe Enough for Our Own Children

    From the beginning, this program balanced service to the homeowners, the community, and the environment. “At the time, I had a three-year-old,” Thalhamer recalled. “I’d tell the contractors, if it’s safe for my three-year-old to walk across this lot, then we know that a family is ready to rebuild.” Program staff have always valued this personal level of safety. This means cleaning up dangerous materials most homeowners don’t even realize lay in the ashes of their destroyed houses.

     

    wildfire debris

    After a wildfire, property owners need experts to identify toxicity in the rubble and ashes.

     

    A few of the invisible toxins common in residential burn scars include:

    • Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, zinc, and lead, which is especially high in homes built before 1978.
    • Asbestos, which is present in most homes built before 1985 and in some newer homes as well.
    • Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, pesticides, and herbicides are common in most homes.

    For CalRecycle, the disaster debris removal program extends the department’s mission to ensure that California safely manages our materials—whether toxic and recyclable or not—to their best and highest use. It’s what the department does day in and day out. CalRecycle staff are experts in this. The debris removal program intensifies this effort in the service to communities recovering from tragedy.

    The Go-To Crew After Disasters

    In the years immediately following the 2007 Angora Fire, the debris removal team was only activated one time—for the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. But in 2014, the Boles Fire in Siskiyou County swept into a neighborhood in Weed destroying over a hundred homes, echoing the devastation seven years previously in South Lake Tahoe. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) called on CalRecycle to respond, and the team has worked almost continuously on cleaning up wildfire debris since then.

    Since 2014, CalRecycle has:

    • Overseen 20 major disaster projects
    • Removed 5.6 million tons of materials (65 percent from the 2019 clean up of the Camp Fire)
    • Performed disaster recovery for 16 different counties, from Los Angeles to the Oregon border
    • Cleaned and certified 17,297 properties as ready to rebuild in suburban neighborhoods, farms, mountain valley towns, scenic coastlines, and forested cabin areas.

    We’re On a Mission from Cal OES

    CalRecycle doesn’t take on these projects of its own volition. Cal OES must mission task CalRecycle before we can help. This can happen after Cal OES grants a request for assistance from a local jurisdiction in crisis. In fact, the only major incident in the past five years that CalRecycle didn’t mobilize to clean up was the 2017 North Bay fires, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handled.

    For one key CalRecycle debris team member, the department has proven its expertise in clean up and managing the destroyed materials. “We’ve earned the confidence of others that we can handle projects this size with efficiency,” Alan Zamboanga said.

    Zamboanga, who served as the finance chief or contract manager on most of the projects since 2014, points out that CalRecycle continues to demonstrate operational and financial efficiency, including the massive 11,000-property Camp Fire debris recovery project. “Because of our expertise and knowledge, we are the go-to people when it comes to wildfire debris.”

     

    Angora Fire debris removal crew

    The 2007 Angora Fire Incident Management Team on the site of the last property cleaned.

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Feb 24, 2020

  • Why Do We Recycle Tires?

    tire fire

    Tire fires of past decades could take months to extinguish, while emitting smoke thick containing cyanide, carbon monoxide, and other toxins.

    Until 19 years ago, countless illegally dumped tires polluted our state. Large piles of old tires sometimes even caught fire in the hot California sun. These tire fires put off toxic smoke containing cyanide and carbon monoxide. Because a fire can continue to burn deep inside a pile of tires after the top layer appears extinguished, firefighters struggled to put out these smoldering blazes that emitted thick, black plumes of toxic smoke that sometimes burned for months.

    California turned to recycling to solve the problem of tires:

    1. Catching fire
    2. Clogging waterways
    3. Filling with water that bred disease-causing mosquitoes

    tire pile

    Where can we put 51 million tires a year?

    California’s 35 million registered vehicles generate 51 million used tires every year. To manage this constant flow of vulcanized rubber into the waste stream, California passed the Tire Recycling Act in 1989, which created the Tire Recycling Program. After a series of devastating illegal tire pile fires in 1998 and 1999, the law was strengthened in 2000.

    To prevent illegal stockpiles of tires, the state has:

    1. Permitted tire storage facilities
    2. Enforced used tire storage and management laws
    3. Developed recycled tire product options

    To find new uses for more than 82 percent of 51 million worn-out tires a year, CalRecycle constantly innovates and evaluates safety studies. The department awards grants and loans to businesses and public entities to expand the safest markets for waste tires.

    tire cover on playground

    Different styles of playground cover are a common use of recycled tires.

    Across California, companies are producing tire-derived products made from recycled tires, including:

    • Playground surfaces
    • Roofing
    • Flooring, including rubber mats for gyms
    • Path cover
    • Roads
    • Accessibility ramps

    cars driving on golden gate bridge

    Where the rubber becomes the road

    For more than 30 years, ground-up, recycled tires mixed with asphalt have produced cost-effective, durable, and environmentally friendly binder in concrete road cover.  Overall, about 2.7 million tires have gone to paving California’s roads.

    Tire rubber makes up only about 1 percent of rubberized asphalt concrete. The asphalt binder absorbs the rubber into it, reducing its ability to break away as a microparticle. These streets last about 50 percent longer than roads made from asphalt alone.

    tire project

     Many local governments have used tire-derived aggregate in place of conventional construction material for civil engineering projects to:

    • Backfill retaining walls
    • Stabilize hills to keep them from slipping into landslides
    • Absorb vibrations 
    • Fill in land for other reasons

    This tire material helps solve a variety of civil engineering challenges because it drains better and costs less than other lightweight, mixed material building aggregate.

    “Tire-derived aggregate requires minimum processing and reduces the need for mining (like other lightweight fills) in facilities that generate greenhouse gases,” said William Heung, CalRecycle Senior Waste Management Engineer for the Materials Management and Local Assistance Division.

    Tires saved millions on California transportation

    Local governments used this tire material to expand rail systems for both the Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) and the Metropolitan Transportation Agency in Southern California. The cushioning rubber from tires absorbs vibrations underneath the tracks.

    Along with keeping about 500,000 tires from going into landfills, these two projects saved BART and MTA millions of dollars.

    tire project aerial shot

    Tire material stabilizes a retaining wall on a hill that prevents mudslides in Santa Barbara. 

    A recent innovative road project in Santa Barbara used tire material to stabilize a retaining wall located on a hill. Because the tire material won’t degrade even when wet, engineers expect it to support the retaining wall more effectively and help prevent mudslides that can happen when water washes away soil on a hill. (View video.)

    Keeping tires from trashing California

    California’s population will continue to grow, so our efforts to expand tire recycling must keep pace.

    Over the last few years, through its grants and loans, CalRecycle has funded rubberized road concrete and other tire material projects to prevent millions of waste tires from ending up illegally dumped or in landfills.

    CalRecycle explores potential tire products as we work to reach the state's zero waste goals while preventing tire fires that pollute our air with poisonous smoke. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on Feb 18, 2020