California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

How to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Buy Recycled in State Government

Implementing Waste Reduction

The following outlines the steps to establishing a waste reduction program within a state agency.

Many of these steps are consistent with those used by the private sector. Realizing that "one size does not fit all" in practicing waste reduction, this is a general outline for guidance purposes, mostly pertaining to an office setting.

Each agency should take into consideration the primary business function performed when applying these steps. For instance, the California Department of Corrections, with diverse operations and facilities, would employ different steps in implementing waste reduction than a small office department, such as the Department of Boating and Waterways. Regardless of the size of the organization or the function, there are common components to any successful program.

Designate a Waste Reduction Team and Coordinator
A waste reduction coordinator should be appointed by management to ensure the policies and goals of the department are met. The coordinator should have strong organizational, leadership, and communication skills, and have enthusiasm for waste reduction.

A waste reduction team of staff should be designated to assist the coordinator in implementing and maintaining the program. The team can be voluntary or mandatory; however, voluntary recruitment with team duties included in the staff’s duty statement to formalize the efforts results in the most committed team. The size of the team depends on the size of the agency. Representatives from each functional area and level of the agency must be represented.

The waste reduction coordinator and team are responsible for educating, planning, and maintaining the program. The team should meet regularly. The CalRecycle’s Waste Reduction Committee meets biweekly to monthly, depending on the items to be discussed. Subcommittees may be formed to address specific action items related to the agency policies and goals.

Develop an Action Plan
An action plan to achieve each established goal should be drafted by the team as a working document. The action plan outlines tasks to be accomplished, staff responsible for each task, and a timeline for completion of each task.

Measure Savings
Measuring savings from waste reduction efforts provides information to help sustain current efforts and improve upon them. Highlighting savings keeps employees and management involved and enthusiastic about the changes that have been made. Measuring also provides a monitoring system to identify and correct unexpected problems quickly.

It’s important to determine the method of measurement early in the program. Whether through a waste audit or through changes to business functions, measuring waste reduction requires establishing a baseline of the materials to be measured.

For more information on measuring savings through waste reduction, see Measuring the Success of Office Paper Reduction Efforts, or #442-95-070, Establishing a Waste Reduction Program at Work.

Educate/Publicize Results
Once the savings are measured, they can be used to educate staff and management of the goals achieved and the success of the campaign. Education is an ongoing effort. The goal is to have waste reduction become the way daily business is conducted.

Waste Prevention and Reuse

What Is Not Created Does Not Need to Be Destroyed

Waste prevention and reuse, sometimes referred to as source reduction, is preventing or reducing waste during its production rather than managing it after its generation, as in recycling and disposal. Preventing waste means using less material, such as paper, to do the same job. Reusing materials also is a form of waste prevention because materials go further, thereby producing less overall waste.

Waste prevention is accomplished by getting the maximum use of any material before it is recycled or thrown away. It includes replacing disposable materials with reusable materials, eliminating a particular item altogether, repairing or maintaining equipment so it last longer, and using electronic communications instead of paper.

Waste prevention and reuse measures are the first steps in a comprehensive waste reduction program. Successful waste prevention requires creative and analytical thinking first about how a reduction in materials can be accomplished, and then what can be done to reuse the materials that have been used once. Too often only recycling systems are considered rather than reducing and reusing systems.

Successful waste prevention requires making changes to materials that come in as raw materials, supplies, or packaging as opposed to thinking about waste reduction as only trash going out. All materials that are recycled or disposed have been paid for in some way. It is important to consider purchasing practices to see if materials can be moved "upstream" into the waste prevention and reuse categories instead of focusing on recycling as the first and only treatment of materials. By minimizing the volume of raw materials, supplies or packaging used, direct savings are realized.

Case Study
CalRecycle has undertaken a comprehensive waste prevention initiative in its office headquarters. The CalRecycle formed an in-house committee to develop and implement a waste prevention program to reduce waste at the CalRecycle and serve as a model for other public and private sector office settings. Highlights from the first nine months of the program include the following.

White office paper use was reduced by 25 percent by:

  • Discouraging avoidable or excess copying and printing
  • Encouraging communications via electronic mail.
  • Encouraging two-sided copying and printing.
  • Making two-sided printing an automatic computer feature.
  • Reducing the size of documents.
  • Streamlining document review processes.
  • Turning one-sided paper into scratch pads.
  • Pruning mailing lists.

These efforts are estimated to produce annual savings of:

  • 364 cases (3640 reams or 1.8 million sheets) of white paper.
  • $16,724 in reduced postage costs.
  • $68,370 in photocopying costs.
  • $5,500 in reduced printing costs.
  • $10,151 in reduced purchasing costs (paper and note pads).

Recycling/Collection

Recycling Is Not Enough
Recycling has traditionally been the first action taken when implementing a waste reduction program. Too often it is the only action implemented. An agency that implements recycling collection programs without implementing the other elements of an integrated system may be lacking the true benefits of waste reduction and resource efficiency. To realize the full cost and resource savings a comprehensive waste reduction program can provide, an agency should first focus on waste prevention and reuse activities. However, recycling is a critical component to an integrated waste management system.

Materials to Collect for Recycling
Before determining what materials to collect for recycling, the agency must first determine what materials are generated in sufficient quantities to support a recycling program. The materials to collect for recycling and the methods used to collect those materials are specific to the organization and site. Current law requires State agencies and facilities to collect office paper, corrugated cardboard, newsprint, beverage containers (as defined in section 14505 of the Public Resources Code [PRC]), waste oil, and any other material at the discretion of the CalRecycle (see Applicable Statutes, next page).

A majority of State agencies will comply with these mandates as they operate in office settings generating these materials. However, State agencies or facilities with specific functions may generate other waste materials in significant quantities sufficient for recycling. For instance, the Department of Transportation generates construction and demolition (C&D) materials in sufficient quantities to support a C&D collection program. (For more information on C&D debris or other special wastes, see Appendix B, Waste Reduction Resources for State Agencies.)

Collection Methods
The methods used to collect, separate, store, and remove recyclables depends on the material types, volume, space availability, and organizational structure to remove the materials. General recycling program options include:

Source Separation. Materials such as white paper, mixed paper, aluminum, glass, plastic, and cardboard are segregated by type into bins where initially discarded. This is the traditional approach to office recycling. Characteristics of a source separated recycling program are:

  • Potential high recovery value of recyclables.
  • Provides an adequate recovery rate to contribute to State waste diversion goals.
  • Provides significant avoided disposal costs for building management (approximately $800 to $1400 per month according to BFI).
  • Requires only 5 percent more custodial staff time to handle discarded materials.
  • Success (high recovery rate) based on employee education and involvement.

Dry Commingled (unseparated). All dry waste materials are mixed where initially discarded, then compacted, and hauled away for a fee (about 8 percent less than the charge for municipal solid waste or MSW). The materials are mechanically/manually sorted at a transfer station or "clean" materials recovery facility (MRF). Unacceptable materials typically include cafeteria and restroom waste, food/beverages, liquids, pallets, construction debris, and landscape waste. Characteristics of a dry commingled system are:

  • Reduced recovery value of recyclables.
  • Provides a high recovery rate to contribute to state waste diversion goals.
  • Avoided disposal costs for building management depends on fee to haul away dry commingled recyclables vs. MSW.
  • Requires minimal additional custodial staff time to handle discarded materials.
  • Requires less employee education and involvement to achieve a high recovery rate.

Education is Key to Success
Education is important to the success of any waste reduction program. With recycling collection programs, education is critical. Staff should be trained about the collection system being implemented and how their participation determines the success of the program. This training should include materials being diverted, the proper location to put the recyclables, and clearly identified lists of unacceptable materials. Education increases participation in the program and minimizes contamination of recyclables thereby increasing the volume of recyclables and the overall success of program.

Applicable Statutes
Current law requires each State agency/office to initiate activities for the collection, separation, and recycling of recyclable materials whether in State-owned or -leased facilities in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco counties, and in any other area the CalRecycle determines is feasible. With assistance from the CalRecycle, each State agency shall recycle office paper, corrugated cardboard, newsprint, beverage containers (as defined in section 14505 of the PRC), waste oil, and any other material at the discretion of the Board.

Additional Resources
The CalRecycle has a Web site for State agencies, which links to other useful pages within the site, including the following:

For more information on statutes pertaining to the collection and recycling of materials in State offices (PCC Section 12165 (a) and PRC Sections 42560-42562), contact the CalRecycle’s Project Recycle staff (See Appendix B).

For more information on office paper recycling, waste assessments, and cost-benefit analysis of office paper recycling, see the many publications available through the CalRecycle’s Business Waste Reduction Fact Sheets and Case Studies.

Procurement: Buying Recycled

Completes the Materials "Loop"
Buying recycled-content products (RCP) completes the recycling loop by creating markets for recycled materials to use as feedstock in the manufacturing of recycled-content products. It is the demand side of the recycling equation. A demand for recycled-content products in turn supports recycling collection as the most economical and desirable method of disposal.

Purchasing Power of State Government
The State’s role in RCP procurement is twofold. On the one hand, State purchases can definitely be an asset to markets for recycled materials. The State purchases billions of dollars of products each year. State government is the single largest purchasing entity in California. Through this buying power, the State has the ability to create and maintain stable markets for recycled materials.

The second role the State fulfills by purchasing RCPs is that of leadership and an example to other government entities throughout the State as well as the private sector. If the private sector believes that the State is committed to buying RCPs, it too will respond by manufacturing more RCPs and by increasing its own RCP purchases. In this way the State and the private sector create a synergy that will build and sustain markets for recyclable materials.

State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign
Activities pertaining to RCP procurement by State agencies increased considerably with the passage of Assembly Bill 4, (Eastin, Stats. 1989, c. 1094). This statute, added to the Public Contract Code and revised by several subsequent bills, constituted the major components of what has become known as the State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign (SABRC). The current laws require State agencies to:

  • Purchase recycled-content products in sufficient quantities to attain the annual goals for specified product categories.
  • Report annual purchases of recycled and nonrecycled products in specified product categories.
  • Submit plans identifying how the annual goals for recycled-content products will be attained.
  • Require contractors to certify, under penalty of perjury, the recycled content of the products they offer to the State.
  • Purchase ALL recycled-content products instead of nonrecycled products whenever they are available at no more than the total cost of nonrecycled products, and fitness and quality are comparable.
  • Attain the mandated recycled-content product procurement goals regardless of the price differences between recycled- and nonrecycled-content products.

Staff from CalRecycle, with assistance from the Department of General Services (DGS) provide a SABRC manual and training to implement the statutory requirements. As of FY 97/98, 113 out of 133 agencies submitted reports (84 percent) and reported $24,483,218 in RCP purchases.

Elements of a Successful State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign

There are many elements that go into a successful SABRC within any agency. Depending on the size of the institution, the way it is organized, the extent to which purchasing is centralized, and the commitment made to these mandates, each agency’s results can vary considerably. The access to computers and software dedicated to purchasing and accounting and the individual staff working on these issues will effect the amount of RCP purchases and the ability of that agency to accurately report those purchases. Based on the experience that CalRecycle staff has gained over the past four years of implementing the SABRC and on comments received from State agencies, the following items have been identified as key elements of a successful buy recycled campaign.

Commitment From the Top
Because of the need for multiple offices to be involved in identifying, purchasing, tracking, and reporting RCPs for an agency, it is often necessary to have a high level manager oversee these activities. Therefore, a critical factor to a successful SABRC is support throughout the levels of management. Middle and upper level support and backup are critical to overcoming hesitation or complacency when it comes to purchasing RCPs rather than non-RCPs. Because staff from several offices may need to be involved in the SABRC activities, a manager must be responsible for communicating the needs to the other managers and for coordinating the efforts of the team.

Dedicated Personnel
Those responsible for the SABRC mandates must purchase RCPs rather than non-RCPs whenever possible. Without personal dedication by the agency coordinator, increased RCP procurement will be very difficult. Much of the time, the responsibilities for the SABRC are simply added to the responsibilities of one particular person. This is often not realistic nor appreciated. At the very least, the SABRC coordinator responsibilities should be those of someone in an appropriate position of authority, overseeing procurement and related administrative functions with an interest in environmental issues.

Internal Communication/Coordination
For most State agencies, attaining the SABRC mandates will require a coordinated effort among multiple branches or offices within an agency. The individual responsible for generating the report may not work in the procurement office. At the very least, a close relationship must exist between the buyers, the users, and those generating the report. It would not be uncommon for another person or office to be responsible for collecting the procurement data during the year, and the users of the products (the copy room, painters, plumbers, vehicle pool, etc.) to also play a part in the process. Each of the people in these positions needs to be part of the team that becomes responsible for attaining the SABRC mandates and generating the report. Full responsibility cannot be placed upon one individual for an agency’s compliance with the mandates.

External Information Sharing
Another element that cannot be overlooked is education. Some people have had bad experiences with RCPs in the past or have heard of such experiences from others. RCPs have improved a great deal in recent years with corporate America coming into the manufacturing arena for many product categories. With considerable research and development going into this new generation of RCPs, many of them compare very favorably to, and some are simply better than, non-RCPs with respect to price, quality, and availability. These advancements need to be discussed among buyers and sellers. Buyers need to communicate with suppliers, and a concerted effort must be made by the State as a whole to inform product manufacturers of the preferences for RCPs. Additionally, SABRC contacts representing various agencies need to communicate and share experiences with each other.

Evaluation and Improvement
The final element to a successful SABRC is the ability to analyze past purchases with respect to product performance, price, delivery, and vendor satisfaction, as should be done with all purchases regardless of material content. This type of information will be used to develop a history of RCP procurements.

Analysis of purchases necessitates the development of some type of procurement tracking mechanism. Staff must have a system to gather the information, organize it in a meaningful manner, and be able to manipulate the data by a variety of criteria. Each member of the team—buyers, users, management, and those tracking the purchases—must fully analyze past purchases from each of their particular areas of expertise so that they will lead to more successful future purchases. This will result in establishing "best RCP purchasing practices," prevent some mistakes from being repeated, and should result in feedback for the RCP suppliers on how to improve the RCPs that were not purchased.

Building Green

The Benefits of Green Buildings
A "green" or sustainable building is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives, such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing environmental impacts associated with the production of raw materials and building construction.

Green buildings provide significant savings in energy and operating costs over the life of the building. Cost savings are fully realized when they are incorporated at the conceptual design phase through construction, and with the assistance of an integrated team of professionals. Additionally, building green promotes waste reduction and the efficient use of resources by reusing building products and utilizing recycled-content products, thereby supporting markets for recycled materials.

The State has the opportunity, when planning and constructing new State buildings, to realize the operating cost savings green buildings provide while providing leadership in waste reduction and recycled-content product procurement practices in the construction industry. The CalRecycle, in coordination with CalEPA, is actively working to incorporate sustainable building measures into several developing State building projects to demonstrate the performance and economic success of sustainable construction in the state.

Available Resources
The CalRecycle, with assistance from the City of Santa Monica and Gottfried Technology, Inc. (GTek), is developing a statewide plan for a sustainable building program. The program, now in the conceptual stage, will address the benefits and provide support for sustainable buildings in the State, local, and private sectors.

The CalRecycle develops and distributes educational materials relating to green buildings and provides comments and technical assistance for specific building projects. For more information, visit CalRecycle’s green building Web site.

Landscape Materials Management

Waste-Efficient Landscape Maintenance Practices
Landscape sites at State agency facilities and institutions can be maintained in an environmentally sound and cost-effective manner by using responsible landscape management practices that reduce green waste generation, reuse trimmings and prunings on site, and recycle organic products (mulch and compost) back into the landscape. These management practices include:

  • Controlled Irrigation—Water just enough to maintain plant health and appearance.
  • Precise Fertilization—Only apply precise amounts of necessary plant nutrients.
  • Grasscycling—The natural practice of leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing.
  • Selective Pruning—Use techniques that result in less green waste and healthier plants.
  • On-Site Composting and Mulching—Use site-generated trimmings as feedstock.
  • Proper Organic Materials Application—Use products derived from urban green waste.
  • Environmentally Beneficial Design—Install low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants and waste-efficient landscape design features to reduce trimmings and prunings.

Benefits of the "Three Rs" in Landscape Management
Practices that reduce green waste generation produce significant economic and environmental benefits. Direct savings can be realized by reduced maintenance, labor, water and fertilizer cost. Indirect cost benefits include reduced hauling expenses as well as disposal fees and less exposure to workers’ compensation claims due to crew injury from lifting heavy loads. On-site management of yard trimmings returns valuable, high-quality nutrients and organic matter to the soil. This encourages healthier, disease and pest resistant plants that improve appearance, prevent erosion, and increase property values.

Using recycled organic materials in landscapes enhances soil fertility and water holding capacity, slows evaporation losses, increases plant drought tolerance, conserves water, and also suppresses the spread of wildfires. Using the environmentally beneficial landscape maintenance practices outlined above will reduce fertilizer and water usage, which in turn reduces toxic runoff that can lead to surface and groundwater pollution.

Case Study
Fountain Circle on the west side of California’s State Capitol was selected as a demonstration ground for grasscycling. This was a cooperative effort among the CalRecycle, Department of General Services, the Office of Buildings and Grounds, and the Toro Company, which supplied the mulching mower. This initial demonstration was so well received that DGS/OBG is now converting its entire fleet to grasscycling mowers.

Results of Grasscycling Demo at State Capitol:

  • Mowing time reduced by over 50 percent. Bagging and disposal cost eliminated.
  • More than 300 pounds of grass clippings per 1000 square feet recycled annually.
  • Nitrogen content of recycled clippings reduced fertilization requirements by 25 percent.
  • Similar savings in water usage noted.

Available CalRecycle Resources

CalRecycles’s organics Web site has sections containing specific information on the practices outlined above, a compost and mulch source list, a section for publications, reports, articles, and fact sheets available for downloading or online ordering and a section on composting regulations.

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Last updated: February 9, 2015
State Agency Waste Management Programs, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/StateAgency/
Recycling Coordinator: SARC@calrecycle.ca.gov, (916) 341-6199
Buy Recycled Campaign: BuyRecycled@calrecycle.ca.gov, (916) 341-6199