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

  • Wildfires Create New Danger: Hazardous Debris

    The latest wildfires in California have left more than 80 people dead, 161,000 acres burned, and more than 10,000 homes and structures destroyed. But as changing weather patterns and the tireless work of firefighters help boost containment lines, communities devastated by the fires now face potential health risks associated with the improper handling of fire debris. 

    Returning residents should avoid extensive sweeping or sifting through ash or debris before cleanup by designated agencies begins. Exposure to ash, soot, and other hazardous material left in the wake of wildfires can cause serious and potentially deadly health problems.

    Camp Fire aftermath

    Fire ash contains tiny particles of dust, dirt, and soot that can be inhaled if the ash becomes airborne. These particles could contain trace amounts of metals like lead, cadmium, nickel and arsenic; asbestos from older homes or other buildings; perfluorochemicals (from degradation of non-stick cookware, for example); flame retardants; and caustic materials. In addition to irritating your skin, nose, and throat, substances like asbestos, nickel, arsenic, and cadmium have been known to cause cancer. 

    • Experts say it’s best to avoid any activity that disturbs the debris or kicks ash and associated chemicals into the air.
    • Those working directly with wildfire debris are advised to wear gloves, long shirts and pants, and other clothing to help prevent skin contact.
    • It’s best to change shoes and clothing once off-site to avoid contaminating other areas.
    • Masks certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are also recommended when exposure to wildfire dust or ash can’t be avoided.

    CalEPA recommends NIOSH-certified air-purifying respirator masks, which can be found at most hardware stores. A mask rated N-95 is much more effective than simpler dust or surgical masks in blocking particles from ash. Although smaller sized masks may appear to fit a child’s face, none of the manufacturers recommend their use for children. If children are in an area that warrants wearing a mask, they should be moved to an environment with cleaner air.

    Safe sifting through your property will NOT jeopardize your claims for disaster assistance. However, property owners are advised against initiating actual cleanup activities or significantly disturbing the debris by moving it to other areas. Expanding the ash footprint on the property creates additional safety hazards and expenses during the cleanup process. Contact your local officials for further guidance on these activities.

    Learn more about CalRecycle's role in wildfire recovery efforts.

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Nov 28, 2018

  • CalRecycle Wildfire Debris Cleanups: Status Report

    After a wildfire, the process involved in cleaning up damaged property, clearing debris, and rebuilding can be overwhelming. Residents and local governments are inundated with tasks and projects that must be completed in an orderly manner. In response to a declared State of Emergency and a request for assistance from a local government, the California Office of Emergency Services regularly tasks CalRecycle with managing debris removal operations and preparing residential properties for rebuilding by homeowners.

    CalRecycle is currently mission-tasked by CalOES to manage debris removal operations for the Carr Fire in Shasta County, the Klamathon Fire in Siskiyou County, and the Mendocino Complex Fire and the Pawnee Fire, both in Lake County.

    In Shasta County, 1,046 homeowners have registered for the program; debris removal is complete on 723 sites, and 119 of those have been approved for redevelopment. 

    In Siskiyou County, debris removal is complete on all 49 properties registered for the program.

    In Lake County, 146 homeowners registered for the Mendocino Complex debris removal program; debris removal is complete on 86 properties.

    Homeowners have returned 15 signed Right of Entry forms for the Pawnee Fire cleanup; debris removal is complete on nine properties.

    For more on the wildfire debris removal process, see our Consolidated Debris Removal Program FAQs and our Wildfire Debris Cleanup and Recovery webpage

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Nov 5, 2018

  • Autumn: Prime time for backyard composting

    Summer has given way to autumn, and we’re pulling on our boots and clomping off to the coffee shop for pumpkin-spice lattes. And soon, my backyard tree will be dropping enough leaves to ramp up my suburban compost bin again.

    My city provides me with a “brown bin” that I can use for organic waste, so even when I’m not composting with my bin, my organic waste is not decomposing in a landfill somewhere and generating methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

    But I enjoy playing weekend farmer in my little backyard, and my compost bin is magic: I toss in banana peels and coffee grounds, and I pull out a rich, nutritious soil amendment. And there are benefits to making my own compost rather than buying it at a garden supply store: I know exactly what’s in it, I don’t have to pay for it, and I don’t need to haul it home.

    At CalRecycle, we get pretty excited about composting, so we’ve got all sorts of resources for people who want to start composting, increase or improve their compost yield, or troubleshoot potential problems. The trick, I think, is to not get bogged down trying to figure out the perfect system. Just pick a bin that works for the space you have, and get started. You can fine-tune later. For all my worries, I have never seen a rodent around my bin, and I’ve never had a smelly bin. (Since my neighbors are very close by, I tend to keep my pile a little drier than optimal just to be on the safe side as far as odor goes. I pay for that caution with a slower composting process.)

    Be sure to check out CalRecycle’s backyard composting primer, complete with directions, explanations, and links to additional resources. Here’s a quick look at the process, which should reduce the intimidation factor and get you started:

    First, get a bin. (I love my stackable bin, but my city gives away a hoop bin to residents. Check with your city or local jurisdiction.) You can also build a bin. An optimal bin is about 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and 3 feet tall. Then, follow these steps:

    • Start with a layer of “brown” material such as dried leaves and twigs. This material provides carbon for the pile.
    • Add a layer of “green” material like coffee grounds, tea bags, and produce scraps. This provides nitrogen.
    • Mix it up with a shovel or pitchfork. (Or, “turn it,” as compost folks like to say.)
    • Add water until it’s the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
    • Top the pile with just enough “brown” material so no “green” material is exposed.
    • Give it another light watering.
    • Wait as long as you like. Days, weeks, whatever works for you.

    Then repeat. That’s all!

    Once the magic starts to happen and you discover your kitchen scraps have actually turned into a rich, moist soil amendment, you can decide how much effort and precision you’d like to put into your compost project. If you go for “gourmet” composting, you’ll get much more (and higher quality) material. If, like me, you stick with “casual” composting, you’ll still get enough to energize your spring veggies and ornamentals, plus more for mulching.

    If you don’t have the space for a composting bin, consider community-scale composting and get to know your neighbors. Whether you turn your own bin or work in a group plot, you’ll all have good “dirt” to share over your coffee drinks.

    Posted on In the Loop by Heather Jones on Sep 25, 2018