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

  • All About Earth Day

    U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in on April 22, 1970, and it served as a catalyst to bring a simmering environmental movement to the forefront of American consciousness. Just eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published a groundbreaking book titled Silent Spring that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet and connected our actions with the health of our environment. Carson observed that the heavy use of pesticides was killing off birds, making the forests silent. Some credit her book with jump-starting the environmental movement.

    In December 1970, real change came when Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By the U.S. EPA’s 10th anniversary, Congress had authorized significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation in the United States. As a leader in environmental policy, California followed suit and established complementary laws to care for our state.

    image
    image

    Be sure to see our Earth Day Planning Guide, which includes events this weekend, later this month, and even in May, to commemorate the progress we have made and to continue to protect our natural resources. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 20, 2017

  • San Francisco Youth Help Meet Recycling, Landfill Diversion Goals

    The City of San Francisco has long been at the forefront of recycling and landfill diversion. Almost 20 years ago, the city introduced green waste bins and implemented a three-bin waste collection system in residential neighborhoods. Shortly after that, the city launched Food to Flowers! in its schools.

    image

    Food to Flowers! familiarizes students with the same waste management best practices the city encourages in residential neighborhoods: recycling, source separating, and understanding what materials are compostable.

    Program Director Tamar Hurwitz has been with Food to Flowers! for more than 14 years and has spearheaded the effort to develop a comprehensive educational component to food waste diversion and recycling in schools. The program includes image-based slideshow assemblies to educate K-12 students about recycling and the environment. Today, more than140 schools in San Francisco have implemented a food-scrap collection program that encompasses education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and vermicomposting with worms.

    “We teach students that nature gives us everything. Kids love animals. It’s a very natural instinct,” says Hurwitz. “We teach them that if we care about the animals, then we need to protect nature and we introduce zero waste as way to do that.” 

    image

    When Hurwitz began developing the program, she noticed many recycling mascots were bottles and cans with smiley faces on them. She didn’t find that very motivating. “I don’t want to save a can, but I do want to save an animal,” she says. Food to Flowers! created a phoenix bird mascot called Phoebe that children really love. “Kids remember Phoebe for years. … She’s beloved.” Phoebe is the star of the school assemblies and a recycling training video.

    The Food to Flowers! campaign includes installing green carts in cafeterias to collect food scraps. Students learn how to separate their food waste from plastic packaging and other non-compostable items. Fourth-graders are trained to be compost monitors,  and they wear bright orange aprons. The goal is to prompt students to stop and think about their trash rather than doing a “dump” and running off to recess.

    “It’s a reasonable request to ask students to dump food, sort out recyclables, and stack plastic trays,” says Hurwitz. “You have to make it consistent and support them when they are confused.” Compost monitors tell fellow students to think about compost in terms of worms. If a worm can eat it, it can go in the green cart.

    Hurwitz puts a lot of thought into the educational messaging. She recalls asking a classroom why trees are important and a student called out, “Because they give us paper!” Hurwitz realized she needed to reframe the question and asked why living trees are important. “The implication is that living trees have such value—we need to keep them alive.”

    Schools that implement the Food to Flowers! campaign often see benefits in many different areas beyond waste management. The program’s positive messages have a trickle-down effect. “When a school can incorporate a zero-waste program, it can help create a school culture of respect and teamwork,” says Hurwitz.  

    Waste issues plague most cities, but programs like Food to Flowers! model environmental stewardship to children so it becomes a natural and normal part of how they view their trash.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 6, 2017

  • Reflections on 2016

    Here we are, at the start of another bright year full of hope and promise. As we look forward to an even greener future, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the great recycling accomplishments of 2016.

    California Plastic Bag Ban

    Californians voted to uphold the law banning single-use carryout plastic bags from grocery and other stores. And little wonder: they pollute our oceans and kill marine wildlife, compound our litter problem by as many as 20 billion plastic bags each year, and undermine sustainability by disrupting and damaging machinery designed to sort recyclables. Already, people are adjusting to shopping with reusable bags. Check out our blog on finding the perfect set of reusable shopping bags.

    image

    Organics, Organics, Organics

    You might be aware that methane gas emissions are a significant cause of climate change, with about 25 times the heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide.  But did you know the number one stationary cause of methane is organic material in landfills? That’s right—it happens as our food waste and yard clippings break down and decompose.

    We’ve now been given a tremendous asset to help reverse this dangerous trend. Following on a law passed in 2014 to require businesses to recycle their organic waste, in 2016 Governor Brown signed legislation to reduce short-lived climate pollutants including methane. Among targets established in the new law are a 50 percent reduction in disposed organic waste by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.

    The greatest component of California’s organic waste—indeed, our number one disposed material overall—is food waste.  Included in the new law is a goal to recover at least 20 percent of edible food from the waste stream by 2025.  This will not only help reduce methane-generating waste, but help put more focus on how much edible food we discard—by some estimates as much as 40 percent of what we buy.

    Catching Recycling Fraudsters!

    Californians pay a fee when they buy bottles and cans that they can recover when they recycle the container. The California Refund Value (CRV) is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater. Beverage containers from outside the state are not eligible for a refund since the purchase of those containers did not pay into the CRV fund. Recycling fraud occurs when people import bottles and cans from other states and attempt to redeem a CRV fee at a recycling center.

    image

    Several recycling fraud cases were prosecuted in 2016. The biggest case that was resolved last year involved David Scott Anderson, the former owner of Mission Fiber Group, who was sentenced to five years in state prison for his role in a complex scheme to defraud California’s Beverage Container Recycling program. CalRecycle takes recycling fraud very seriously, and we work relentlessly on such cases to protect CRV funds for California consumers.

    Thanks to strong leadership at the state and local levels, a resilient environmental ethic, and the commitment of our state’s citizens, we’re forging a more sustainable California. In 2017, we look forward to making even more progress through our collective efforts.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Jan 5, 2017