Hello – Is this thing on?
I’d like to introduce you to CalRecycle and the work we do here. We are big into bottles and cans, of course, and we run the California Redemption Value program to the tune of about $1.1 billion per year. You buy your soft drinks or your beer, pay the CRV recycling incentive, return the bottle or can for recycling, and get your CRV back. The recycling center sends your used beverage container off for processing, and away it goes to be recycled it into some cool new thing. We have hundreds of people here at CalRecycle working on some aspect of the CRV program.
But there’s more to CalRecycle than bottles and cans. What else are people here working on? Here’s an incomplete list to start things off.
For the past several months we’ve been cleaning up in the aftermath of several major wildfires. We have crews cleaning up fire-ravaged home sites and working around the clock at command centers, helping residents get what they need and figure out what to do next. We’re clearing away the remains of destroyed structures, regrading the properties to prevent erosion and make them safe for rebuilding, and carting off all the wood, metal, and concrete for recycling – and make sure the ash and other nonrecyclable material is for safe disposal.
We’re working every angle to divert material from landfills –all kinds of plastics and metals, as well as construction material, paper, and maybe above all, organics – and recycle those materials. We’re working to achieve a 75 percent recycling rate for California, and that means beefing up the recycling infrastructure to handle that kind of volume. We offer grants, loans, and permitting assistance for large and small businesses – from companies with a half-dozen employees that cuts up old t-shirts and repackages them as shop rags to multimillion-dollar in-vessel digestion facilities to recycle organics into biofuel and soil amendments. And, since we’re not in fact a bottomless money pit, we’re also continually looking at a variety cooperative opportunities for local jurisdictions and private industry to plan for, site, and fund these projects.
More than a third of the material that goes to landfills is readily compostable organic material. In landfills, it decomposes and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. On the other hand, when composted, organic material enriches our soil, which results in less need for expensive fertilizers and pesticides that can pollute groundwater. Green waste can also be recycled into landscaping mulch, which, like compost, helps the soil retain water – pretty useful, especially now that we’re in the fourth year of a drought. And, organics can be converted into renewable natural gas to fuel city buses and even garbage trucks. We’re working hard right now to help local jurisdictions implement a new statewide commercial organics recycling law.
In different corners of the building, we have staff working on extended producer responsibility programs – take-back programs that make manufacturers responsible for their products at the end of their useful lives. Paint, carpet, and mattresses are all problematic once the consumer is done with them: Paint is a household hazardous waste, and carpet and mattresses, in part due to their sheer size, are a problem in landfills and likely candidates for illegal dumping. So, we’ve set up programs with manufacturers to manage them and recycle them.
You’ll be hearing quite a bit about these topics, and more, at this location. Check in now and then – we’ll be posting news releases and other updates about our comings and goings.