Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.
Plastics, metals, food, clothes—what items go in which bins? What can be recycled? Is recycling really worth the effort? There are many misconceptions about being green and reducing waste, but we’re here to clear up some of the most common myths about recycling and waste.
Donating Food Is Illegal
One in eight Californians is food-insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That’s a staggering statistic when you realize 6 million tons of food—much of it edible—is thrown away in California each year. You may have heard that donating food is illegal and that there are many liabilities when it comes to giving food away, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are two laws that state as long as food is donated in good faith, you should have no legal issues. That goes for both individuals and businesses. So, if someone tells you donating food is illegal, you can point them to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act or the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
Donating Really Old Stuff Is Helpful
You may think no one wants your old socks or pillows—they’re very personal items. But the fact is many donation centers end up selling “unusable” textiles to places that recycle them into building insulation and shop rags. So while you think no one wants your stained T-shirt, it turns out they can be recycled, which makes sense when you consider about 95 percent of disposed textiles can be recycled or reused.
Recycling Is Worth the Effort
While National Sword (China’s current policy to limit or fully prohibit recyclable material imports) has changed the recycling scene, that does not mean it’s better to throw items in the trash. In fact, recycling challenges have provided new opportunities for success in the waste industry: Many startups have found ways to reuse and recycle common and uncommon items with a little innovation and imagination. While China’s restrictions are having a negative impact on California exports, they also highlight the importance of reducing waste and reusing what we can. Recycling remains the critical element in keeping valued materials out of landfills and putting them to good use – or should I say reuse.
Going Zero Waste Is Expensive
It might seem that way upon first glance. You’re thinking of the items you need to replace in order to create less waste in the long run. You might have to invest in some higher-quality things around your home, and that costs money. And sure, you might come across a zero-waste guru or two out there who tries to guilt you into buying $30 shampoo because it comes in a refillable metal bottle or purchasing a $200 shirt that will last until the end of time. But when it comes to going zero waste or less-waste, you may already have items around the house that you can use. Don’t feel pressured into spending money when you don’t need to—you’ll just end up resenting your zero-waste goal. Instead, gradually switch items in your home that have reached the end of their useful life with something of higher quality that has a longer lifespan. This will help you reach your goal without emptying your wallet, and you’ll be able to sustain your lifestyle change.
Are there any recycling myths you’d like debunked? Just let us know, and we’ll do our best to get to the truth.Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on May 17, 2018
Oak Park’s volunteer-run Fix-It Café keeps all sorts of goods, from the sentimental to the pragmatic, out of landfills
Once a month, volunteers in a tight-knit Sacramento community get together to hang out, chat with their neighbors, and help repair everything from clothing to toasters to bicycles.
The Oak Park Fix-It Cafe is a grassroots effort to keep worldly possessions out of landfills—and it has been one of the most immediately rewarding ways that I spend my spare time. As a CalRecycle employee who believes in the goals of our department, the Oak Park Fix-It Cafe is yet another way I get to “walk the walk.”
On our opening day last May, the small appliances section fixed nine lamps! A vintage 20-inch fan had its bearings pulled out and the worn-out electrical cord replaced. Volunteers in our bicycle corner offered tune-ups and tire patches. You can even patch the tire to your wheelbarrow—we’ll show you how.
I’ve been volunteering in the sewing corner for most of these repair cafes. I sewed a sleeve back onto the shoulder of a Hawaiian shirt, and I taught a teenager to use a sewing machine to repair her mother’s ripped jeans. I started sewing three years ago, and I love using this skill to bring together my community and help the environment. Unlike the generations before me who learned to sew starting in junior high “home economics” classes for their future homemaker lifestyles, I have learned what I know about sewing from my mother, grandmother, and Pinterest.
When I learned that the clothing manufacturing industry is the second most polluting industry after oil refineries, it blew my mind. When we buy the latest low-quality fashions for less than a workweek lunch, we are contributing to pollution. I want to teach people how to sew that cardigan button back on, turn those outdated bell-bottoms into hip skinny jeans, and make vintage prints and thrift store finds into wearable outfits. It’s fun, and in a small way we are helping the environment.
If we do not immediately know how to fix something, we can learn! At our second meeting, the small appliances group watched a YouTube video to learn how to fix the timing mechanism on a sewing machine. The inside of a sewing machine is not for the faint of heart. With some tinkering and tenacity, as a team we saved the machine for its owner to continue crafting.
If we ultimately can’t fix it, we want people to try a professional. Repair cafes are not likely to compete with professional repair. People who can afford to buy higher-quality items and have them repaired usually do. Manufacturing of many items has become so inexpensive that buying a lower-quality item new is often cheaper than paying for professional repair. Part of Oak Park Fix-It Cafe’s mission is to open people’s eyes about how much is discarded and what can be repaired instead of replaced. In this increasingly consumer-driven world, it is refreshing to see people coming together to take better care of their items and increase the health of their neighborhood.
The Oak Park Fix-It Cafe is held the third Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next cafe is April 21. See the group’s Facebook page for details.
Additional Links and ResourcesPosted on In the Loop by Victoria Ngo on Apr 9, 2018
In 2013, the California Environmental Protection Agency created the Environmental Justice Compliance and Enforcement Working Group to focus on communities that contain multiple sources of pollution and are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects. The group is now known as the Environmental Justice Task Force.
One of the primary goals of the group is to provide community members opportunities for input on potential environmental justice concerns and the implementation of remedies. The task force also conducts initiatives to increase local compliance with environmental laws in targeted areas. CalRecycle has played a role in initiatives in Fresno, Los Angeles and Oakland.
The latest initiative, in Pomona, was led by staff from CalRecycle and the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The project began last summer and concluded in March, and included a concerted effort to engage youth and teachers.
Staff from CalRecycle and DTSC facilitated a weekly leadership workshop with high school students through an after-school organization, Pomona Hope. Pomona Hope is a community-driven, faith-based nonprofit that works to empower people of all backgrounds, particularly at-risk youth and their families, to work together toward personal and community transformation.
Students learned about environmental justice, explored local issues related to pollution and equity, and were provided opportunities to engage civically. Students also participated in activities to gain insight into the role of local and state government and learned about different ways to participate. The CalEnviroScreen mapping tool was used to identify local sources of pollution and explore what factors make Pomona especially vulnerable to its effects.
In December, staff from CalRecycle and DTSC partnered with community organization United Voices of Pomona for Environmental Justice to host a “toxic tour” for students and teachers in Pomona. A toxic tour is a tour of an area where people live adjacent to multiple sources of pollution. The goal is to increase awareness of the potential health risks those pollution sources pose to certain groups of people.
Pomona students and teachers, led by United Voices of Pomona for Environmental Justice, on a community toxic tour.
After the tour, staff from CalRecycle and the California Air Resources Board gave a presentation on environmental justice and how pollution relates to both equity and the economy. Garey High School teacher Ion Puschila then tasked his AP Macroeconomics students with a project exploring the economic costs of pollution.
To encourage broader environmental literacy during the Pomona project, Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum materials were distributed to teachers and community organizations in the area. CalRecycle’s EEI is a free, K-12 curriculum designed to increase environmental literacy through lessons and activities that teach science and history through an environmental lens.
In an effort to support the current work of students and teachers in Pomona, CalRecycle staff connected with Vanessa Villagran’s and Jacquelynn Fischer’s third-grade classes from Kingsley Elementary School. The students will showcase their work on plastic pollution at the annual meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials later this month.
In the near future, the youth of today will represent their communities and have a voice in civic life. Preparing the youth of today can translate into an engaged citizenry tomorrow. And together, we can strengthen environmental justice in communities across California – and in doing so enrich and protect the very lives of those youth whose environmental awareness and activism we nurture.Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Apr 3, 2018