Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.
More. It’s one of baby’s first words and baby’s first wants. More milk. More food. More fun. More stuff.
That primal pursuit of “more” typically grows with age. We buy. We collect. We throw away. In a state of nearly 40 million people this translates to a lot of waste. Californians send about 38 million tons of stuff to landfills each year.
Recycling reversed our direction
We used to landfill even more. Everything changed in the late 1980s when California collectively decided our children deserve a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.
To lessen the impact of our throw-away culture on the environment, California passed the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act in 1986 and the Integrated Waste Management Act in 1989. These bold actions led to more recycling and more jobs.
Since that time:
- California’s beverage container recycling rate climbed from 52 percent in 1987 to 76 percent in 2018, keeping nearly 400 billion cans and bottles off our streets and out of our landfills and waterways.
- California reduced its landfill disposal by 15 percent, even though its population increased by 34 percent.
- California created and sustained more than 150,000 recycling jobs and a robust recycling infrastructure to help diversify local economies.
Recycling matters now more than ever
Recently cynics have tried to dismiss the value of recycling because of changes in world recycling markets. But as we survey the damage caused by our single-use throwaway culture filling our rivers and oceans with plastic, Californians realize that recycling has become more important than ever.
Many of us who grew up in the 1980s during California’s shift towards recycling now have families of our own. We want to do more for our environment and provide a healthy future for our children.
1. We recycle so our children have quality food grown with compost, not chemicals.
Organic waste makes up two-thirds of California’s disposal stream.
Food waste, green waste, and other organic material can either:
- Decompose in landfills, emitting methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, or
- Be recycled into new products, such as renewable energy or soil-healing compost to turn depleted dirt back into nutrient rich, water retaining, agriculturally productive soil – reducing the need for chemical pesticide and fertilizer use.
Compost also adds living microbes to soil, which pull the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air.
2. We recycle so our children have cleaner air to breath.
Manufacturing products from recycled materials requires less energy and results in fewer GHG emissions than mining, refining, processing, and shipping raw materials to make new products, which results in less burning of fossil fuels.
We can recycle organic waste into carbon-neutral biofuel to produce electricity, fuel, or renewable natural gas, further decreasing fossil fuel use and its environmental and health costs.
3. We recycle to keep trash off our streets and out of our waterways and landfills.
In 2018, California recycled 18.5 billion plastic, glass, aluminum, and bimetal beverage containers – the second highest number in the state history. Since passing its bottle bill, Californians have reduced litter and landfilling by recycling nearly 400 billion beverage containers.
Thanks to the bottle bill, curbside recycling, and other waste reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts, California now recycles the equivalent of roughly one-third of the state’s annual landfill capacity each year, reducing the need for new or expanded garbage dumps. This means less air pollution, water pollution, land used and truck traffic.
4. We recycle because our children deserve more trees to climb.
Preventing one ton of paper waste through recycling, reuse, or non-use saves between 15 and 17 mature trees, according to the US EPA.
Producing paper from recycled pulp requires 40 percent less energy than using wood, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.
This savings translates to 4,200 kilowatt hours, 390 gallons of oil, 60 pounds of air pollution, and 7,000 gallons of water, according to MIT.
5. We recycle to fight climate change and create a stronger economy.
When we leave our trash at the curb, it’s efficiently taken away and we never have to think about it again. But we pay an unseen price.
Trash rotting in landfills has real health and environmental impacts. Landfills are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They add few jobs.
As the effects of climate change lead to more wildfires, severe droughts, sea level rise, floods, and temperature extremes, our trash costs us more than money.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and composting make good use of resources, while creating new industries and 10 times more jobs than landfilling.
Recycling gives us:
- Healthier food
- Cleaner air
- Less litter and pollution
- More air purifying trees
- Less climate changing gases
Recycling matters more than ever because our children deserve nothing less.Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jan 6, 2020
It’s been a year of firsts for me. As the newest information officer in CalRecycle’s Office of Public Affairs, it’s my job to tell CalRecycle’s stories. But before joining the Office of Public Affairs team, I was the finance chief for the Camp Fire debris removal project. I’ll have a lifetime of stories to tell about my work on the Camp Fire—and the first is how this challenge was the best I’ve ever accepted.
Last spring, I joined CalRecycle’s Wildfire Debris Removal team in Paradise, California. I had never been to Paradise, but I was very familiar with the Camp Fire. Like many Northern Californians, during November 2018, I had choked on the thick smoke from the country’s most devastating fire in a century. CalRecycle is often tasked with organizing, managing, implementing, and overseeing debris removal operations in support of local governments. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived to help oversee the project’s finances, but I found a dedicated team of cleanup crews that go the extra mile to help homeowners and communities recover.
Here are a few things I learned while working at the Camp Fire debris removal project in Paradise.
Results Are Immediately Visible
CalRecycle transforms properties after a fire:
From a disaster area riddled with invisible toxicity to a cleared property on which a family can rebuild their lives.
Office denizens at CalRecycle go to work every day and have a sense that their work is making a difference, but it’s rare that they get to see it in real time. During debris removal operations, crews on the ground experience the immediate changes they make in the lives of community members.
Residents saw everything they own destroyed. Our work gives them back a property that is certified and ready for rebuilding their new life. We give them a way forward.
We Aren’t Alone
Debris removal operations is more than just an interagency effort. In addition to the California Office of Emergency Services, nearly every CalEPA BDO had representatives that aided with the CalRecycle mission. CalTrans, CHP, California Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, local jurisdictions, and FEMA collaborated on the cleanup as well.
There is also a critical public-private partnership with experienced contractors and consultants adding their expertise to the operation.
While public-sector employees take the lead, we couldn’t finish the work without the added experience of technical experts from the private sector.
At its peak in Butte County, thousands of people were working toward a single goal. Only about a hundred were state employees.
“Second Responders” Are Truly Heroic
Even though the work is long and tiring, the cleanup crews never got jaded. Project managers take the time to recognize their efforts at weekly safety meetings, and it’s clear the crews care about helping Paradise recover. When asked to do so, debris removal crews sift through portions of ash looking for heirloom jewelry, or the remains of a vintage blacksmith shop, or anything left of a flower pot garden.
Crew members go beyond just removing debris and have taken to heart the mission of helping people search for their lost treasures and rebuild their lives.
The Environment Is Fragile, yet Resilient
Natural disasters leave a scar across the landscape, but if there is one thing that’s clear, it’s that plant life and wildlife bounce back more easily than homes and businesses. On an April visit to the Woolsey/Hills fire site in Los Angeles County, the super bloom was in full force, and it was nearly impossible to see the burn scar from the fire that happened just a few months before. In both Northern and Southern California, great care was taken to do no more damage to the environment.
In addition to allowing homeowners to rebuild, CalRecycle’s mission for wildfire cleanup is to remove debris that threatens public health and the environment. This allows the region’s flora and fauna to recover more quickly.
It’s Worth It Because We Care
Sometimes the days are long. Sometimes your own bed and your loved ones are just too far away. But knowing that the work you’re doing is necessary and matters, gets you up the next day.
There is a shared mission across agencies and sectors. Whether one chooses to make a career out of disaster recovery or volunteers to support the mission on a temporary basis, the experience will positively affect how you see your work and impact on the world.Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Dec 30, 2019
During the holidays many of us gather to share special meals, exchange gifts, and enjoy ourselves. As you prepare to host gatherings for your loved ones, consider how your celebrations create waste that contributes to climate change and adds to the growing amount of plastic in landfills. Are you being naughty or nice to the planet?
Here are three ways to get on the planet’s Nice List this holiday season
Naughty: Throwing Food in the Trash
Nice: Lowering Food Waste with Meal Plans and Composting
Meal Plan for Zero Food Waste
Many of us consider lavish spreads of favorite holiday dishes the hallmark of a caring host. But excess food gives off high amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane once it’s dumped in a landfill. This is a major cause of climate change.
Rethink your hosting ideals, brand your gathering eco-friendly, then don’t overbuy or overcook.
Use the food GUEST-IMATOR tool to plan how much to prepare. If there are leftovers you know you won’t finish, send food home with your guests in reusable containers.
Clean your plate or compost the rest.
Try composting your food waste. If your curbside organics collection doesn’t accept food, ask local community gardens if you can contribute to their compost bin.
Consider setting up your own home compost. It can help grow healthier, heartier plants. Winter is the ideal time to start compost that will be ready to add to your garden in the spring.
Easy tips for starting to compost
Naughty: Single-Use Plastic
Nice: Reusable Dishes and Utensils
“Disposable” Plastic Lasts Forever
Many hosts choose the ease of disposable plates, cutlery, and cups for holiday gatherings. But that plastic your guests use for just a few minutes will never biodegrade. It stays on the planet, slowly breaking down into toxic microplastics.
About 10 percent of all trash is plastic. Forty million Californians create more than 3.2 million tons of plastic waste every year.
Reusable plates and cutlery give the gift of a cleaner planet. Less trash in landfills is worth a few extra minutes of cleanup.
Naughty: Dirty Recyclables
Nice: Clean Recyclables
Rinse Containers Before Recycling
Recyclables tainted with food or water can leak onto surrounding paper and cardboard, and create a contaminated, unrecyclable mess. In 2018 China stopped accepting certain US mixed recyclable shipments because many arrived full of mold and had to be thrown away in landfills.
Clean your containers to keep recycling from becoming garbage.
Not sure about that greasy pizza box? Tear off the oily parts and toss those in the trash. The remaining clean cardboard can go in your blue bin.
Check out this quick video on recycling contamination.
With a few small changes, you can make a difference for the planet even as you enjoy this festive season. Get more eco-friendly holiday hints to use this year.Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on Dec 23, 2019