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

  • Cities, Schools Aim to Become Zero Waste Communities

    What is “zero waste”? To some, it means reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill to zero. To others, zero waste is a process and a philosophy that involves a redesign of products and a redesign of consumption, so all material goods can be reused or recycled—or not needed at all. A number of local jurisdictions in California have implemented zero waste programs or passed resolutions related to zero waste.

    In 2014, Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) became the first school district in the nation to commit to the goal of zero waste.

    The city of Oceanside provides recycling bins and educational materials to each campus, measures the amount of waste the school produces, and educates the school community on how to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. By the end of the 2016/17 school year, the OUSD Zero Waste Initiative will have reached 13 of the OUSD’s 23 schools and saved the district nearly $100,000 in avoided landfill servicing fees. By the end of 2020, the city plans to implement its zero waste plan at all schools in the district.

    Kids Recycling At School

    Christa McAuliffe Elementary is one of the schools participating in the zero waste program.

    The students are trained to recognize different waste materials and to sort them accordingly for disposal or recycling. During lunchtime, a student “Green Team” helps sort lunch waste and teaches classmates about waste diversion and recycling. The school encourages parents to volunteer alongside their children, thereby spreading the impact of this educational program beyond the four walls of the school.

    We may or may not ever reach zero waste, but we continually work toward the goal. Today, a 90 percent reduction of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators is considered an achievable goal by such groups as the Zero Waste International Alliance and the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. However, each succeeding increment toward zero requires systematic changes and improvements, and a significant, collaborative effort.

    If you’d like to learn more about zero waste and what California cities and counties are doing to become zero waste communities, visit our Zero Waste webpage

    Posted on In the Loop on May 13, 2017

  • Recycle Your e-Waste – Here’s How

    Sometimes we want to do the right thing and recycle, but for some materials, we just don’t know how to go about it. Many of us don’t even know what electronic waste is, and we certainly don’t know what to do with it when we don’t want it anymore.

    When in Doubt, Don’t Throw It Out!

    It is illegal to throw away electronic waste in the regular garbage. If you can’t find it a new home, electronic waste must be recycled at an approved facility.

    Check eRecycle.org for an approved e-waste recycling facility near you.

    Health and Safety Concerns

    Electronic waste contains hazardous materials, predominantly lead and mercury, and is therefore not only dangerous to our environment if disposed improperly, it is also a health hazard to people who have to handle it, such as waste management facility employees.

    Other Recycling Options

    If the item isn’t broken and is still usable, consider giving it a second life in your own home. Parents who upgrade their cell phones can give their older phones to children for use as music and gaming devices. If you’ve upgraded your microwave, consider moving the older one to an office or garage to use it there. If you are done with the device or appliance, consider donating it to a local nonprofit and giving it a second life. Many thrift stores will repair electronics for resale, so call and ask, even if your device appears to have given up the ghost.

    Types of Electronic Waste

    Here is a brief list of items that constitute electronic waste.

    • Computer monitors
    • Central processing units (CPUs)
    • Laptop computers
    • Printers
    • Cell phones, cordless phones, answering machines
    • Televisions (both flat screens and tube-types)
    • VCRs
    • Microwave ovens
    • Radios
    • Electric cords and miscellaneous accessories
    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Apr 24, 2017

  • La La Land’s Latest Trend: Community Composting

    Local man transforming Los Angeles one neighborhood at a time

    To outsiders, Los Angeles can seem a bit intimidating. It’s the second largest city in America, the most populous county in the country, and a traffic congestion juggernaut that has commuters seeing red on the daily. It’s where stars are made and trends are born.

    Michael Martinez is not intimidated.

    It’s the only way to explain what this West Covina native has accomplished in just four years, transforming a bold idea from a grade school garden into one of the most high-profile community composting programs in California. “LA Compost started as a pilot project in 2013 with a goal to keep organic material in the community, so neighbors could start seeing it as a resource and not waste,” the nonprofit’s founder and executive director recalls. Now, with eight community composting hubs throughout Los Angeles County, plans to add 10 more in 2017, and a waiting list of about 40 potential locations, LA Compost is on track to become the first county-wide community-based composting program in the state. Just as profound, the nonprofit provides a localized model for how individuals and neighborhoods can get involved in California’s fight against climate change.

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    Michael Martinez (right) with volunteers at LA Compost

    You could say Martinez was born for this moment. He was raised to appreciate the source of his meals: “My father always valued the importance of food and ensured my siblings and I understood its story.” And he was acutely aware of what too often came next: “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was very familiar with the landfills in West Covina and Puente Hills.” Perhaps that’s why he was so disturbed by the disconnect he witnessed from his fifth-grade students. “Not a lot of kids could trace a carrot beyond the supermarket or saw anything grow from the ground before,” he recalls.

    From there, an idea was born—an ambitious new program to build soil health and community health using compost as a vehicle. Martinez started a school garden and composting site with his fellow teachers in West Covina. A high school soon followed, and Martinez’s phone started ringing. “Friends and families and people I knew throughout the city started asking if they could get involved.” Within a few years, a local church funded the construction of a community garden and compost center at the high school where the church congregates. Martinez credits home-field advantage with giving LA Compost its strong foundation. “I had a lot of connections from schools, churches, and businesses,” Martinez continues. “I knew I could really get a good start and some flexibility if I messed up a thing or two.”

    Expanding his neighborhood composting concept beyond the familiar borders of West Covina took courage and a leap of faith, but Martinez says he had confidence in the communities that make up Los Angeles. “For me, it’s about tapping into that potential and diversity from ZIP code to ZIP code to create a decentralized model that collectively has a bigger impact.” Along the way, Martinez says he’s been able to navigate his way through state and local regulations without a problem, paying special attention to hauling agreements and various state and local permitting requirements. “What we offer is smaller, individual operations with a lot of on-site local solutions that don’t require a lot of movement of materials,” he adds.

    LA Compost and similar community composting groups throughout the state are crucial partners in California’s effort to reduce short-lived climate pollutants that contribute to global warming. When sent to landfills, organic waste decomposes and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide. Compost use provides a simple, proven way to build carbon content and hold more water in soils, which is essential for building climate resilience.

    “California’s diversion goal and the effort to get three-quarters of all organics out of landfills by 2025 cannot be attained without a variety of programs and community efforts of all sizes,” notes Robert Horowitz, environmental scientist with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. “So long as your community composting program stays under 100 cubic yards of materials on site at any time and 750 square feet, you should not need a solid waste permit.” He says most community garden compost sites don’t come close to that volume. “My advice is keep it small, and even if you intend to stay way under 100 cubic yards and 750 square feet, I recommend getting to know the inspectors at your local environmental health department.  They will let you know if there are local regulations or other concerns.”

    By the start of 2017, LA Compost’s eight hubs were diverting more than 8,000 pounds of organic material from landfills each month. Looking toward future expansions, Martinez says maintaining standards is top priority. “I want the bins to be clean. I want best practices taking place. I want every hub to be owned by the community in which it’s located.” Over the past few years, Martinez says he’s noticed a growing interest in composting and more excitement among citizens who want to get involved. “I would say do what works for you and your schedule,” whether it’s participating in a community composting operation or starting a compost pile in your own backyard. “Do what works for you. Composting happens. Nature is very forgiving. Just have fun with it.”

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    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Apr 3, 2017