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

  • What Is Recyclable?

    Wait, aren’t all products with the recycling chasing arrows symbol recyclable? Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. First, there is currently no universal definition for recyclable. Second, individual materials in a product may be recyclable, but they may be fused together in such a way that it’s difficult to separate them into individual recyclable materials. Plastic-coated coffee cups, electronics, and padded envelopes are good examples of this. Third, even though a product may technically be recyclable, there must be a market for that material. In other words, a product’s recyclability has as much to do with the economy as the technology of recycling. Let’s break down the recycling economy for insight. 

    Collection

    The first step in the recycling process is to collect the material. Californians can sort their recyclables into a curbside recycling bin, or they may opt to take some materials to a recycling center. Dirty or broken material may not be eligible to be processed into feedstock, so be sure to add only clean items to your recycling bin. And check with your local hauler to see what materials they are collecting to recycle before putting items in your curbside recycling bin. 

    Sorting and Processing into Feedstock for Manufacturers

    Next, a recycling center sells the material to a recycling processor who transforms the material into feedstock for a new product. In the case of plastic water bottles, the plastic is shredded into plastic flakes. 

    California has historically relied on a “collect, sort, export” model of recycling. Fluctuations in the global commodities market often impact California’s ability to export these materials for recycling. Despite these fluctuations, California exported more recyclables last year than in previous years. Even so, it’s pretty clear that California must continue investing in a robust domestic recycling infrastructure so we are not so reliant on foreign markets to process recyclables and remanufacture products.

    Recycling Feedstock into New Products

    Recycling processors then sell feedstock to manufacturers who use the material to manufacture new products. These products are called “recycled-content products.” It is difficult for recycled feedstock to compete in the marketplace if the price of virgin materials is cheaper. Although low oil prices mean low gas prices, they also mean it’s cheaper to make a plastic bottle from virgin materials than recycled plastic water bottle flakes. 

    CalRecycle is about to start developing regulations for SB 1335 (Allen, Chapter 610, Statutes of 2018), which requires food service facilities located in state-owned buildings to use reusable, recyclable, or compostable food service packaging. Laws like SB 1335 will not only help define what is actually recyclable, but will also create a market demand for reusable, recyclable, and compostable products.

    Marketing and Selling Recycled Content Products

    In the final step of the recycling economy, manufacturers sell recycled-content products to distributors and retailers who then sell these products to the public. One of the ways CalRecycle helps this effort is by overseeing the state’s Buy-Recycled Campaign, which requires all state agencies to purchased recycled-content products. In addition to creating a market demand for recycled-content products, the program also creates new jobs; reduces waste, pollution, and energy consumption; and diverts waste from landfills.

    Ways to Support the Recycling Economy

    • All Californians can support the recycling economy in a few simple ways. 
    • Consider ways to reduce the amount of trash you throw away every week. Can you make changes in how you shop or consume goods that would reduce your personal waste? That may look like using a reusable coffee cup or opting for products with less packaging.
    • Check with your waste hauler to learn about what recyclable materials are allowed in your recycling bin.  Haulers will let you know what they are collecting that can be sold to recycling processors.
    • Add clean recyclables to your curbside bin to reduce contamination. Rinsing out spaghetti sauce and peanut butter jars before adding them to the recycling bin can go a long way in reducing contamination.
    • Buy recycled-content products. Look for products that use recycled-content in them. CalRecycle’s website has a search tool to look for recycled-content manufacturers. 


     
    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Oct 10, 2019

  • California Resource Recovery Association: A Culture of Zero Waste

    CalRecycle staff speaking at podiums, speaking to conference members, and an outdoor group photo.

    Since 1974, the nonprofit organization California Resource Recovery Association has been working toward a more sustainable California through promoting product stewardship, waste prevention, and recycling. The group’s annual conference for which we are a sponsor, brings together cities, counties, councilmembers, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and industry professionals to network and discuss environmental issues. Every year, CalRecycle staff and guest speakers offer a cornucopia of information about policies, practices, and studies at comprehensive educational and plenary sessions.

    At this year’s conference, we participated in four panels on topics ranging from e-waste and grants to statewide recycling to educate attendees about upcoming regulations, funding programs, and waste management practices. We even got to meet Ryan Hickman, the 10-year-old mini-mogul who has taken the recycling world by storm by starting his own business at the age of 3! Other speakers included Timothy Bouldry of the International Solid Waste Association, which runs a scholarship program for children living in dumpsites across the world; and Froilan Grate, who is the executive director of GAIA Philippines, which educates and promotes community-based waste management and construction of material recovery facilities.

    Posted on In the Loop by - TC Clark on Aug 22, 2019

  • Keeping Track: CalRecycle's Top-Read Reports

    CalRecycle publishes more than a dozen reports every year in its publications database to provide updates on the status of our programs and detail how much our state is recycling and landfilling. If reading an entire report seems daunting, check out the executive summary, which provides the big-picture context, key statistics, and basic conclusions. Here’s a quick list of CalRecycle’s most-read reports.

    2017 State of Disposal and Recycling in California

    The 2017 report outlines the primary laws that govern waste management and recycling and evaluates the state’s progress in meeting statewide waste diversion goals. This report also outlines new tools and approaches to increase recycling in the state, like improving the quality and marketability of recyclable materials that continue to be generated. Fun fact from this report: In 2017, California generated 77.2 million tons of waste and recycled 42 percent of it.

    2017 California Exports of Recyclable Materials

    California’s recycling infrastructure has heavily relied upon the export of recyclable materials from California ports, and this report outlines the materials we export and the countries that accept these materials. California recyclable materials exports have been steadily declining since 2011, dropping more than 33 percent in weight since then, which resulted in a corresponding drop in the vessel value of exports by nearly $5 billion.

    2018 California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Program Fact Sheet

    This report provides a snapshot of the Beverage Container Recycling Program, including the recycling rate per material type, the total number of sales and redemptions, estimated revenues and expenditures, and the number of containers per pound by material type.

    2014 Disposal-Facility-Based Characterization of Solid Waste in California

    While the State of Disposal and Recycling report offers a big-picture look at how much waste is generated in California, this report reflects the results of an in-the-field study that examined the composition of our waste.  With up-to-date information on the types and amounts of materials disposed in the state’s waste stream, CalRecycle can better determine where changes are needed to achieve California’s 75 percent recycling goal. CalRecycle is currently conducting another waste characterization study that will likely be published in late 2019.

    SB 270: Report to the Legislature: Implementation Update and Policy Considerations for Management of Reusable Grocery Bags in California

    Curious about the success of the statewide plastic bag ban? This report provides an update to the California Legislature about how the plastic bag ban has decreased usage of single-use plastic bags and positively affected the waste stream.

    The Future of Electronic Waste Management in California

    Although not technically a report, this policy recommendation paper is an interesting read. It details how California’s current program needs to be expanded to include all the new types of electronics in the marketplace.

    SB 1383: Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA)

    Curious about how the new organics law will affect California? This report details impacts on residents, businesses, and local governments, including benefits (like jobs created), direct costs (like rate increases), and an analysis of alternatives considered (like eliminating enforcement mechanism).

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 4, 2019