California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

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Beyond 2000: California's Continuing Need for Landfills

Landfills play a vital role in California's total integrated waste management system. We will need landfills for the foreseeable future for those wastes which cannot be reduced, reused, or recycled. And California leads the nation in its standards for state-of-the-art, environmentally safe landfills.



California's landmark Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939) set an ambitious goal for our cities and counties: Divert 50 percent of all solid waste from landfills by January 1, 2000, through source reduction, recycling and composting. CalRecycle supports this goal through many activities, such as providing technical information to both public and private sectors on waste prevention practices, stimulating markets for recyclable materials, developing new waste prevention technologies, and providing low-interest loans to new recycling industries.

By 1995, our citizens, businesses, and local governments together had achieved a 25 percent statewide diversion rate, and prospects are good for meeting the year-2000 goal. But even when this goal is reached, we will still have more than 22 million tons of waste per year to dispose in our state's landfills.

AB 939 established another important goal for all California counties: provide at least 15 years of ongoing landfill capacity. At a rate of 22 million tons per year, this means that in the year 2000 we will have to identify landfill capacity, statewide, for 330 million tons of solid waste. This much garbage would fill a canyon 15 miles long, a quarter of a mile wide, and as deep as a 20-story building. And, of course, there is the next 15 years, and the next, and so on. It is clear, then, that California will need landfills for the foreseeable future.

Today, 21 of the state's 58 counties, having 41 percent of the population, will exhaust their disposal capacity within 15 years. Of these, 17 have 8 years or less capacity. It takes 7 to 10 years to plan, design, and permit a new landfill. Recognizing this problem, CalRecycle has worked with other concerned agencies to expedite siting and streamline the permit process, while still protecting the environment.

CalRecycle has also initiated regulations, studies, and demonstration projects designed to encourage a more efficient use of our landfills through landfill mining, space-saving cover materials, and baling or shredding of wastes.

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Last updated: May 28, 2003
Martin Perez: (916) 323-0834