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

  • Sorting Out China’s New Ban on Recycled Materials

    Whether you’re a recycling industry insider or a casual consumer of current events, China’s “National Sword” campaign may have you a bit confused. In short, the world’s largest importer of recyclable material says it will no longer accept most recyclable material.

    In California alone, it would mean finding new markets for the 8 million tons of paper and about 1.3 million tons of plastic and other recyclable commodities exported to China each year.

    What’s the back story?

    China has long needed to clean up its environment, perhaps most acutely highlighted by the near-zero visibility of its polluted capital during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Under growing political pressure at home and abroad, the country has been taking steps toward environmental protection and sustainability. Part of its strategy involved a crackdown on what it called the influx of “foreign garbage” mixed among the scrap materials imported from other countries. Chinese manufacturers rely on this paper, plastic, and other scrap to make products and sell them back to some of those same foreign countries.

    In 2011, China announced new regulations to reduce contamination of solid waste imports. The new rules weren’t very effective, so in 2013 the country began a heightened enforcement crackdown called Operation Green Fence. That campaign involved intensive inspections to ensure bales of imported recyclables were free of excess contamination or other materials. The effort resulted in Chinese ports turning away “hundreds upon thousands of tons”of shipments, according to the business news outlet Quartz.

    In 2017, China issued a new set of regulations on solid waste imports as part of its National Sword campaign. The world’s top waste importer notified the World Trade Organization that it would no longer accept four classes and 24 categories of solid waste by the end of 2017, including waste plastic, paper, and other materials.

    What now?

    U.S. officials, trade groups, and industry leaders have brought their concerns to the Chinese government, requesting more time to avoid a massive disruption in the global recyclable commodities market and potential damage to China’s economy. To date, China has shown no signs of changing course. Reuters has reported on mountains of waste paper piling up in Hong Kong, price hikes for cardboard, and a significant decline in waste shipments into China.

    As states like California continue to monitor the implementation and impact of China’s scrap ban, industry experts are warning states to prepare. Read SWANA’s October 11, 2017, letter to all 50 state environmental agencies regarding the impacts of the Chinese waste ban on state and local recycling programs.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Dec 4, 2017

  • California’s Covered Electronic Waste Program, Explained

    While the pace of technology routinely brings new electronic wonders, it also creates a stream of outdated, unwanted devices. California has taken a comprehensive approach to ensure discarded electronics are environmentally managed, and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is leading the way with the state’s Covered Electronic Waste (CEW) Program.

    The CEW Program was established through the Electronic Waste Recycling Act (SB 20, Sher, Chapter 526, Statutes of 2003) and took effect in 2005. The legislation set up a state-administered funding system comprised of authorized collectors and recyclers and financed by a consumer fee. To date, participating operators have helped ensure the recycling and detailed management of more than 2.2 billion pounds of California’s covered electronic waste.

    The CEW Program, similar to others under the purview of CalRecycle, centers on serving the needs of both the environment and human health. In California, all electronic waste is considered to be hazardous, and many e-waste components are difficult to recycle. The purpose of the CEW Program is to promote resource conservation and job growth through the recovery and recycling of as much e-waste as possible, and to protect the public health and safety by mandating safe, responsible end-of-life management of e-waste materials that are not recyclable or for which there are no reuse markets. 

    Under California’s CEW Program, “covered electronic devices”—on which consumer recycling fees are assessed—are defined as video display devices with screens greater than 4 inches (diagonally). These include cathode ray tube (CRT) devices, TV and computer monitors containing CRTs, TV and computer monitors containing Liquid Crystal Displays, laptops and tablets with LCD screens, plasma TVs, and personal portable DVD players with LCD screens. The consumer fee on purchases of new covered devices in California is currently set at $5, $6 or $7 (based on screen size).

    More broadly, the term “e-waste” is often applied to all consumer and business electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its useful life. More than half of all electronic waste discarded in California is not “covered electronic waste”—things like computer central processing units, stereos, printers, telephones, etc.—but still are materials regulated under California law and require proper handling.

    While the federal government and other states have different regulations, CEW handlers and processors are generally regulated more stringently in California. Materials recovered in the CEW Program, both CRT and non-CRT devices, are dismantled in-state, providing jobs and ensuring that what value exists—metals, plastics, components—is diverted from disposal and re-enters the secondary markets.

    Certain residual materials, such as CRT glass, continue to be regulated once a device is dismantled. Bare CRT tubes, as well as processed CRT glass, make up about 50-60 percent of the original CRT device by weight. Regulated residuals that do not have viable or environmentally sound markets, such as certain CRT glass, must be disposed of in hazardous waste and other regulated facilities.

    The future of electronics is only getting more complex. While CRT devices still make up a large percentage of recovered devices, more flat-panel technology with little to no recycling value is fast emerging within California’s electronic waste stream.  data-sf-ec-immutable="">  continues to be fully transparent about these challenges in monthly public meetings and public workshops with stakeholders. The department has instituted regulatory reforms to address these challenges and supports continued implementation of a new law designed to help deal with the ultimate disposition of certain CRT glass.

    CalRecycle encourages consumers to remain engaged and play a role in the policies that affect California and the world. The CEW Program has been a successful endeavor due to the participating public, the actions of industry, and regulatory oversight. CalRecycle looks forward to its leadership role and the continued evolution of electronic waste management.

    —Lance Klug

     
     

    Remember to take your old electronics to an e-waste recycling center when you upgrade.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Sep 28, 2017

  • Plastics Recycler Joins California’s Climate Fight

    Company Brings New Technology and Jobs to Stanislaus County

    Did you ever wonder what happens to those empty plastic beverage containers once you redeem them? What about the milk jugs or clamshell food cartons in your curbside recycling bin? Or the odds and ends left behind after manufacturers create their new plastic products or packaging?

    At Peninsula Plastics Recycling in Turlock, workers are able to transform these types of materials into clean, ready-to-use pellets or flakes that businesses can then use to manufacture new products. With an annual production capacity of more than 25,000 tons, the company prides itself on helping California transform potential waste into a resource rather than landfilling it or shipping it overseas.

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    Peninsula Plastics Recycling, Inc. purchases, sorts, and cleans recycled plastics and transforms the material into flakes and pellets (above) that companies use to manufacture new products.

    “The pellets and flakes we produce can be used in a number of applications,” explains Tony Moucachen, CEO of Peninsula Plastics Recycling, Inc. “Everything from new plastic bottles for beverages and cleaning products, sheets for clamshell containers, fiber for polyester carpet, fabric for clothes and upholstery, the list goes on.”

    In the coming months, Peninsula Plastics Recycling is set to take its sustainability efforts to the next level. With the help of a $1 million award from CalRecycle’s Recycled Fiber, Plastic, and Glass Grant Program, the company was able to purchase $3 million in new separating, extrusion, and forming equipment. This will help Peninsula Plastics convert nearly half the waste from its PET processing operation into a new product.

    “The product we don’t sell in the pellet or flake form … we will be turning into landscaping edging that can be used in your garden or for pond liners,” Moucachen says. “It’s a product normally made from a non-renewable, oil-based raw material.”

    In addition to keeping more waste out of California landfills, recycling plastic or any other readily recyclable material (such as glass, fiber, paper, carpet, or wood) helps California eliminate greenhouse gas emissions associated with the mining and refining of new raw materials.

    CalRecycle’s Recycled Fiber, Plastic, and Glass grants are intended to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by expanding existing facility capacity or establishing new facilities in California that use California-generated postconsumer recycled fiber, plastic, or glass to manufacture products. The program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities.

    “We’re creating jobs in California and we’re making products in California,” Moucachen notes.

    In addition to creating ten more jobs at the Peninsula Plastics Recycling plant in Turlock, he says the upgrade will help make its current 70-person workforce more sustainable moving forward.

    “Without the California Climate Investment, we would not have done this,” he adds. “This market is becoming tougher and tougher as oil prices sit around a ten-year low,” which means it’s often cheaper for manufacturers to use virgin materials instead of recycled ones.  

    Moucachen says traditional financing companies aren’t quick to fund these types of investments in an industry so vulnerable to fluctuating commodities markets and an increasingly uncertain supply. 

    “They want to make sure you have the same raw material coming at you every day. But if a clamshell manufacturer decides to change materials, you no longer have the same feedstock,” he explains. “You could have a contract with a municipality or a buyback center, but you can’t guarantee that tomorrow’s packaging will be the same as yesterday’s.”

    Now, thanks to its new technology, a commitment to its community, and a $1 million California Climate Investments grant, Peninsula Plastics Recycling is better equipped to handle these ever-changing material streams—and help move California closer to a carbon-neutral economy. 

    “Instead of the material going into a landfill, it’s going to be circular.” Moucachen continues, “It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the economy. And it’s good for our community.”

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    Find out more about CalRecycle’s California Climate Investments grants and loans and read stories from other grant recipients about how they’re putting Cap-and-Trade dollars to work for California’s economy, environment, and the health of our communities.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Sep 25, 2017