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

  • CalRecycle Newbie Maneuvers the Learning Curve

    Syd Fong

     

    Seriously, who knew? I’ve been saying that a lot since I arrived at CalRecycle as its new Public Information Officer. I remember thinking I had some type of understanding about this department—it’s all about recycling, right? Nope, not even close.

    Here are some CalRecycle links that I think that are helpful not only for someone in my position but really for any Californian who may be concerned about our environment. 

    SB1383: This law establishes methane emissions reduction targets in a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) in various sectors of California's economy. This would require a 50 percent reduction in statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.  So reducing food waste and composting will be huge for all Californians to understand.

    Where to recycle: I know my relatives have been asking me this a lot since I got the job (like somehow I’m an overnight expert or something), so this link was great to share so I can seem somewhat competent when I talk to my family. 

    Glossary of waste prevention terms: What’s sustainability or worm composting?  This page will help to figure what those terms mean—and possibly prepare you to be a contestant on Jeopardy. (Alex, I’ll take Xeriscaping for $400, please.)

    Wildfire debris cleanup: CalRecycle has been managing the debris cleanup for the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire, and Hill Fire.  It’s just another aspect of this department that I find fascinating.   

    As you can tell, there’s so much to learn here, but I’m excited to be a part of this team and soak up as much information as I can in the very near future.  Wish me luck. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on May 9, 2019

  • Environmental Justice: Inclusive Decision-Making

    On the drive from Sacramento to Lamont through the San Joaquin Valley on Highway 99, we passed rows upon rows of produce and concrete jungles amid the visible air pollution haze. Last month I traveled with Team Environmental Justice member Julia Dolloff and Maria Salinas, CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice Manager to Lamont, a community just outside of Bakersfield. We were there to present to community members about CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice Program, SB 1383 regulations and the estimated 50 to 100 new large-scale organic waste facilities that will be built in the state as a result, and how to participate in the formal rulemaking process. Visiting an underrepresented community always accentuates the importance of our work to protect all Californians from environmental harm.

    This underlying principle is why the SB 1383 regulations have incorporated community input. For example, the draft regulations allow for the use of community composting operations in jurisdictions to help manage organic waste. In addition, when jurisdictions plan for their organic waste capacity, they must conduct community outreach for new or expanded facilities, seek feedback on benefits and impacts, and consult with community composting operations.

    In light of the impact implementing SB 1383  (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) will have on the state, staff recently created the Environmental Justice Compost Facilities Map, which overlays existing organics recycling facilities with CalEnviroScreen 3.0, a tool that identifies communities disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution. Identifying facility locations increases transparency and empowers communities to participate in the decision-making process with full knowledge of facility permits, inspections, and enforcement actions.

    Lamont community meeting with CalRecycle staff, Kern County employees, and community members, and Enviroscreen map

    Left: CalRecycle staff members, Kern County employees, and Lamont community members met to discuss environmental justice issues. Right: On CalEnviroScreen 3.0, Lamont is in the top third most burdened percentile and surrounded on all sides by the 90th percentile. Three facilities are located in the nearby vicinity. 

    The Lamont community meeting incorporated environmental justice community engagement best practices by holding the event in their community in the evening after typical work hours and providing interpretation services. Not everyone spoke English but with interpretive services, we were able to discuss their personal experiences with pollution, food waste, and waste collection services. For example, one community member noted that many Lamont residents speak different Spanish dialects, which makes it difficult for residents to understand even Spanish translated materials, but that graphic bin labels can transcend the language barrier.

    At the meeting, Gustavo Aguirre talked about his efforts to create a community benefits agreement with the nearby Recology composting facility. The agreement commits Recology to create an odor minimization plan, implement air pollution mitigation measures, and invest yearly in community benefiting projects. At our meeting, multiple people chimed in that this approach was successful for both Recology and their community.  

    Staff from Kern County’s local enforcement agency and other county government officials also attended the meeting. This allowed for a dialogue between the local officials and community members. One exciting moment was when a Kern County employee talked about the Waste Hunger Not Food pilot project. The pilot project implements the food rescue element of SB 1383 regulations by distributing edible, surplus food from restaurants, schools, and markets.

    This community meeting demonstrated the importance of information sharing and solution-building with all involved parties. The conversation was richer because there were representatives from the state, the county, and the community. Getting people historically and systematically disadvantaged in the room and at the table is what environmental justice seeks to accomplish.

    ---Ciaran Gallagher, CalRecycle Capital Fellow

    Posted on In the Loop by Ciaran Gallagher, CalRecycle Capital Fellow on May 6, 2019

  • Calculating and Measuring Recycling and Disposal in California

    If you’ve ever wondered how CalRecycle measures and calculates recycling in the state, this is the article for you.

    CalRecycle employs several methods to count disposal and recycling rates for various material types. To determine a true recycling rate, you need to have a numerator (what is recycled) and a denominator (what is generated). Material types with a short life span, like single-use beverage containers, are tracked more easily than other materials that have a longer life, such as TVs and computer monitors.     

    For the California Beverage Container Recycling Program, we calculate the recycling rate by counting the number of containers redeemed and dividing it by the number of containers sold within a year. This information is calculated and reported every six months. In 2017, the overall recycling rate for CRV materials was 75 percent. You can read about individual material types and their recycling rates on this fact sheet as well.

    For some material types, like electronics, it is harder to calculate an accurate recycling rate for two reasons. First, given the typical lifespan of a TV, determining an accurate time frame within which to measure is difficult. Additionally, California’s Covered Electronic Waste Recycling Program does not cover all electronics, just those with a video display screens larger than four inches diagonal. While the Covered Electronic Waste program does track payment claims to recyclers for some materials, California does not track sales for all electronics or the total generation of e-waste, thus making it difficult to quantify an electronics recycling rate. CalRecycle addresses the limitations of the current CEW program and tracking in a policy paper titled Future of Electronic Waste Management in California.

    Some products are managed by an extended producer responsibility program, also known as product stewardship, like mattresses, carpet, and paint. Soon pharmaceutical drugs and sharps (like needles) will also be managed by a stewardship program. Each of these programs are established by law and each program has different goals and metrics that measure the product stewardship program’s success. To learn more, visit our webpage on extended producer responsibility.

    For a big-picture look at recycling in California, the 2017 State of Disposal and Recycling report offers details on the overall recycling rate, which is calculated by subtracting the amount of overall landfill disposal from the amount of waste generated in the state. In 2017, overall disposal increased for the fifth year in a row to 44.4 million tons. By subtracting overall disposal from the 77.2 million tons of generation, CalRecycle estimates that Californians recycled, composted, and source-reduced almost 32.8 million tons. This corresponds to a recycling rate of 42 percent, which has continued to decline since the peak of 50 percent in 2014.

    The 2014 Disposal-Facility-Based Characterization of Solid Waste in California report offers a much more detailed analysis of the composition of California’s disposed waste stream. Although it isn’t a calculation of what is recycled, it does highlight what is still available to be recycled. Figure 5 on page 30 illustrates the overall waste stream composition. By far, California’s largest waste stream is organic material. Food waste alone is the single largest stream at 16 percent (see the Key Findings section on page 9). California is tackling organics recycling and edible food recovery with Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling and statewide residential and commercial organics diversion and recycling (which goes into effect in 2022).

    AB 901 (Gordon, Chapter 746, statutes of 2015) changes how organics, recyclable material, and solid waste are reported to CalRecycle. This new reporting system will provide CalRecycle with much more information about materials being recycled. Disposal, recycling, and compost facilities, as well as exporters, brokers, and transporters of recyclables or compost, will be required to submit information directly to CalRecycle on the types, quantities, and destinations of materials that are disposed of, sold, or transferred inside or outside of the state.

    The data acquired by the new AB 901 regulations will inform CalRecycle’s understanding of material flows within the state’s recycling infrastructure; allow CalRecycle to better estimate total recycling and composting; and assist CalRecycle to track progress toward several state goals and programs, including the 75 percent recycling goal, mandatory commercial recycling, and organics diversion programs.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 29, 2019