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

  • Organics Recycling Challenge: Invasive Pests

    CalRecycle oversees the state’s recycling and waste management programs to achieve a society that uses less, recycles more, and takes resource conservation to higher and higher levels. More than 30 percent of California’s waste stream is organics like yard trimmings and food waste—materials perfectly suited for value-added products such as compost, fertilizer, and biofuels. Doing so cuts pollution, combats climate change, and creates jobs.

    One of the lesser-known challenges we face in managing organic waste to better and higher uses is something all too familiar to our agriculture industry: invasive pests. Such insects and the diseases they carry can threaten our crops and trees—and when they do, it increases the amount of organic waste we must responsibly manage.

    Palm weevils—a particularly invasive species wreaking havoc on Southern California’s palm trees—are one example. Palm weevils are beetles with large snouts that burrow into the trunk of the palms, eventually causing the crown of the tree to collapse and the tree to die.

    Under laws enforced locally and by agencies such as the California Department of Food and Agriculture, infested organic materials are quarantined and fully composted before leaving the quarantine zone. With a mission to reduce how much organic waste goes to landfills, where it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, CalRecycle partners with CDFA to educate Californians on how to prevent the spread of invasive pests in organic materials.

    The transportation of yard waste and woody debris can transfer pests and diseases from one location to another. To prevent or slow the spread of pests, agriculture officials conduct trapping, eradicate pests when found, and enforce quarantines. If not managed correctly, these invasive species can destroy food crops and undermine our economy.

    Every county within California faces unique challenges to prevent the spread of deadly pests and disease. CalRecycle and CDFA recently presented specialized training at CDFA’s annual Pest Prevention University, providing local officials with information on how to safeguard California ecosystems and promote stronger collaboration.

    When clearing organic material from your yard, keep an eye out for unhealthy foliage or pest insects. If you find infested material, cover it immediately with a tarp and contact the CDFA Pest Hotline (800-491-1899).

     

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    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Nov 9, 2017

  • Preserving Food and Protecting Good Samaritans

    California is one of the largest food-producing states in the nation, yet 1 in 8 Californians faces food insecurity. This is all the more frustrating given we throw away more than 5.5 million tons of food every year and much of it is still edible, wholesome, and safe for consumption. Food labels often confuse consumers, which either leads them to toss food into the trash prematurely or discourages them from donating it.

    But help is on the way! Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 1219 (Eggman, Chapter 619, Statutes of 2017), the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This law helps clarify protections for food donors, who sometimes hesitate to donate food for fear of civil and criminal liability.

    What many don’t know is that food with an expired “sell by” date can still be safe to eat and safe to donate. This date is primarily intended for retailers to help them track when a product should be sold or removed from a shelf. It is not a “don’t use after” date. AB 1219 aims to increase food donations by clarifying and increasing liability protections for donors.

    The law will provide liability protection for:

    • food donations that have exceeded the sell-by date,
    • food donations that are made directly to end-users (rather than through a nonprofit food recovery intermediary), and
    • “gleaners” who harvest directly from an agricultural crop that has been donated by the owner.

    The bill aims to reduce the amount of food we throw away and divert it to those in our state who need it most. AB 1219 clarifies the scope and provisions outlined in existing California laws and the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, a federal law signed into effect by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

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    Diverting food waste from landfills has environmental benefits as well. Food waste comprises about 18 percent of the material disposed in California landfills, the highest amount of any material. When food waste is landfilled, it decomposes and emits methane gas, a super pollutant that intensifies climate change. Climate change impacts California’s air quality, threatens our economy including food production, and contributes to an increase in health afflictions like asthma.

    Simply put, diverting food waste from landfills helps protect public health by combatting food insecurity and fighting climate change. Every ton of food diverted from a landfill prevents 2.08 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere.

    CalRecycle is providing $5 million in grants this year through its Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Programs. These efforts are part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that uses cap-and-trade funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment. To learn more about food rescue efforts and food banks, visit CalRecycle’s website

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Oct 30, 2017

  • Sustainable Spookiness

    Don’t bury decorations in a landfill graveyard after Halloween

    The fall season is upon us. Bring on the pumpkin spice lattes and butternut squash soup! Every family has its own holiday traditions, but I think we can all agree that autumn is a season of transition from warm, outdoor gatherings to cozy, indoor celebrations, and it’s a great time to spruce up our homes with new decorations. As we gear up for special occasions, it is also a great opportunity—and surprisingly simple—to keep sustainability in mind.

    According to the National Retail Federation, last year more than 171 million Americans were estimated to celebrate Halloween and spent more than $8 billion on decorations, costumes, and candy. Starting in mid-August, retail store shelves are stocked with an abundance of cheap, plastic decorations that won’t last more than a season (or two, if you’re lucky). Curb your consumerism a little this year and consider alternatives for your Halloween party, and get a little crafty when decorating and assembling costumes. It’s a great way to refine your sustainability habits and to spread the message to your friends and neighbors as you brag about your art skills.

    I personally love handcrafted décor. I customize items to my personal taste and style, which increases their personal value. I rarely throw anything away that I spent hours making, and I’m often upcycling items from around the house that would otherwise end up in a bin by my curb. Here are a few items I have added to my personal Halloween décor.

    Dried Apple Head Dolls

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    Found a bad apple in the bunch? That’s a perfect candidate for a handmade apple doll, an American folk art doll with a rich history. Apples are peeled and carved with a small knife, dipped into water with lemon juice and salt, and then dried slowly. The result is a wrinkly old face that can be transformed into an endearing old woman doll or a sinister-looking witch. Martha Stewart has a great written tutorial along with a short video, and the craft is appropriate for kids and adults. These apple dolls last for years, but if they live past their prime you can easily deconstruct them and toss the spent apples into a compost bin.

    Cheesecloth Liquid Starch Ghosts

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    If you’re anything like me, my décor storage space is limited. I’m always looking for something that will minimize between uses, and these cheesecloth ghosts are just the ticket. Every year, I unravel a couple of yards of cheesecloth, soak them in liquid starch, and drape them dramatically into the shape of spooky spirits. The beauty of these spooks is that you can rinse the starch out and tuck the cheesecloth away for the next year. This definitely beats alternative crafts that use yards of plastic wrap to create a similar phantom ambiance. To learn how, check out this tutorial

    A Curio Cabinet of Potions

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    Nothing says Halloween like an old hag’s spooky display of mysterious herbs, magic potions, and elixirs. Make your own set out of old vitamin bottles and spice tins. This is a popular item on Pinterest and Etsy, where an individual potion bottle could cost as little as $10 and an entire cabinet collection could set you back a few hundred dollars. Save up those glass and plastic jars and make a little magic of your own with a glue gun, moss, and twine. Your unique display will be the envy of your neighbors at your Halloween party. Check out this tutorial with step-by-step instructions.

    These Halloween decorations are easy to make and easy on your holiday shopping budget, and they’re a little kinder to the planet than single-use décor. If you repurpose items that would already be going into a trash bin instead of buying cheaply made décor, you’ll be joining the upcycle crafting revolution and further reducing your own waste and carbon footprint. It’s a small step, but we know every step counts.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Oct 23, 2017