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

  • California LEAs Awarded $1.4 Million. Wait. What’s an LEA?

    During its monthly public meeting this week, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery awarded $1,404,000 to its local enforcement agencies throughout California. These LEAs provide a crucial service to protect California’s environment and the health and safety of the people who live here.

    But what exactly is an LEA?

    California is home to nearly 1,000 active and closed solid waste facilities, including landfills, transfer stations, material recovery facilities, and compost operations. In addition to administering and providing oversight for California’s solid waste management and recycling programs, it’s CalRecycle’s job to make sure these facilities and operations meet state standards for environmental protection and public health and safety. While CalRecycle maintains its own robust enforcement and inspections staff, statute gives the department the authority to certify local enforcement agencies to act on the state’s behalf to enforce compliance with the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939, SherChapter 1095, Statutes of 1989) and regulations related to solid waste handling and disposal.

    A local governing body (such as a board of supervisors or city council) designates an LEA, most often an environmental health department, which CalRecycle then certifies. Right now, there are 60 certified LEAs in the state. CalRecycle acts as the enforcement agency in six jurisdictions where no LEA is designated: San Benito, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Stanislaus counties, as well as the cities of Berkeley and Stockton.

    Core functions include ensuring that solid waste facilities and operations meet state standards, responding to public concerns about facilities and operations, and working to correct problems as quickly as possible.

    LEAs are among the first to engage whenever an operator seeks to establish a new facility or change activities at an existing site. Operators will work with local planning departments to complete environmental reviews as required by the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970 and work directly with LEAs to complete and submit a solid waste facility permit application package. After checking the materials for completeness and correctness, in consultation with CalRecycle, the LEA submits the package, and its recommendation, to the department. CalRecycle then has 60 days to concur or object to the LEA’s recommendation. Solid waste facility permits cannot be issued or changed without CalRecycle concurrence.

    LEAs are also responsible for performing routine inspections of every active, inactive, closing and closed solid waste facility and operation in their jurisdiction. The LEA submits all inspection reports to CalRecycle and carries out enforcement actions when necessary. These reports and actions, whether conducted by LEAs or CalRecycle acting in that capacity, are public records and available for view online. In addition, LEAs ensure that landfill operators submit closure and postclosure maintenance plans for review and assist with enforcement and cleanup of illegal sites.

    CalRecycle maintains regular contact and works in close partnership with the LEAs, providing technical guidance and training opportunities to ensure LEAs conduct permitting, inspection, and enforcement activities consistent with California’s waste management laws. The department periodically evaluates LEA performance to ensure they are properly carrying out their responsibilities. Funding schemes for LEAs vary by jurisdiction but can include permitting fees, inspection fees, local general funds, and state grants.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jun 22, 2017

  • Fighting Climate Change by Feeding the Hungry

    Local food recovery networks key to cutting California GHG emissions

    It’s 10 a.m. on a typical Wednesday at FoodLink for Tulare Countyand Executive Director Sarah Ramirez, PhD, MPH has to make some quick decisions. The California Association of Food Banks has four truckloads (92 pallets) of California-grown mixed vegetables—radishes, celery, and kale—available, thanks to a donation from a grower or packing house.

    “Maybe they have too much, it’s sitting in their cold box for too long, it doesn’t meet retail standards, or it could be imperfect ugly produce,” Ramirez explains.

    The kale might last a week once it arrives, and only four of the county’s 27 food pantries have cold storage. She continues, “Then you get into, ‘If we only have one produce truck, how many distributions do we (Foodlink) have left this month? Can we get it all out?’”

    Ideally, all of that produce will make it into the bellies of the roughly1 in 3 Tulare County residents (or 1 in 8 Californians) considered food insecure. But if a pantry receives more radishes, celery, or kale than it can handle, chances are good that some of it will wind up among the nearly 6 million tons of food waste landfilled in California each year. Preventing that scenario is top priority for Ramirez and her colleagues within California’s vast network of food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and other food recovery organizations throughout the state. 

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    Photo courtesy of FoodLink Tulare County

    It’s also a crucial part of California’s strategy to combat climate change.

    When sent to landfills, food and other organic waste decomposes and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide.

    “Bolstering California’s food recovery infrastructure will help feed communities in need and also result in significant greenhouse gas reductions,” says Kyle Pogue, organics program manager with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

    Food recovery also helps ease the looming burden on the state’s limited organic waste recycling facilities, which California must roughly double in order to meet the legislative mandates and climate goals passed in recent years. The most recent legislation, SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), establishes significant methane emissions reduction targets that require the near elimination of organic waste in landfills. It also sets forth a requirement to recover 20 percent of edible food, currently sent to landfills, for human consumption by 2025.

    With that in mind, CalRecycle has expanded grant opportunities for food recovery organizations through California Climate Investments. The statewide program puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities. During fiscal year 2016/17, CalRecycle is debuting a new Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant program with $5 million dedicated specifically to this effort.

    “Many food recovery organizations tell us there’s a shortage in infrastructure,” Pogue says. “We want to help these groups recover more food by growing their capacity to collect, transport, store, and distribute more product.”

    The designated dollars for food recovery could help groups like Foodlink for Tulare County add more refrigerated trucks, or increase the number of cold storage units within the county’s food pantries. “We live in a county where about 40 percent of our children are living in poverty,” Ramirez says. “Just think about what that additional food could be doing for these families.”

    The renewed focus on food recovery is also welcome news for people like Patti Larson, executive director for Los Angeles-basedFood Finders. “It’s definitely helping us and putting food recovery in the spotlight where it wasn’t before.”

    Larson’s organization relies on donations of primarily prepared and perishable food from grocers, restaurants, schools, hotels, and other venues, which volunteers help deliver to area shelters in need. Larson says she’s always looking for new funding opportunities and appreciates the investments California is making in this area. “If it’s still good food and you know there’s a need in your community, why wouldn’t helping feed people be your priority?”

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    Photo courtesy of FoodLink Tulare County

    Ultimately, reducing the amount of surplus food generated in the first place is the most environmentally beneficial way to cut emissions associated with growing, transporting, processing, and storing food.

    “As much as we can prevent food waste or recover food waste and get it into California’s food recovery network, it’s less of a burden on the organics infrastructure to either compost or digest it,” Pogue continues. “We could potentially be talking about a lot of food that could be used to feed a lot of people in need.”

    Contact your local food recovery nonprofit or the California Association of Food Banks to find out how you can get involved.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on May 18, 2017

  • SoCal Economy of the Future Draws International Interest

    It’s not every day that a waste management facility draws interest from around the world. Then again, CR&R Environmental Services’ new eight-acre anaerobic digestion complex in Riverside County is no ordinary facility. Curious developers are flocking to see how this public-private partnership is turning food scraps into fuel and transforming Southern California’s green waste into a green economy of the future.

    “We’ve welcomed visitors from China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, South Korea, the Philippines,” says Mike Silva, CR&R Environmental project engineer—and those are just the ones that come to mind. “They’re very interested in the technology, and they like the industrial size of the operation,” he adds.

    With phase one of the project up and running, CR&R’s new AD facility in Perris can take in about 250 tons of organic waste per day from nearby communities. Those food scraps, yard trimmings, and other green waste are processed in an Eisenmann USA anaerobic digester, where the material is broken down into carbon-neutral renewable energy, with the help of Greenlane bio-gas upgrading technology. “The renewable gas we’re producing will operate our roughly 900-vehicle fleet,” explains David Fahrion, president of CR&R’s solid waste division. He says CR&R has also begun marketing its soil amendment and liquid fertilizer, valuable byproducts of the AD process, to agricultural markets across the state. 

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    Upon completion of phase two, set for summer 2017, the AD facility will double its capacity to 500 tons of organic waste each day. Once phases three and four are finished, the facility will be among the largest of its kind, processing about 1,000 tons of organic waste daily. That’s organic waste that will never go to a landfill, where food and other green material decomposes and generates methane. This especially potent greenhouse gas has a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.

    In addition to slowing climate change, the new AD facility provides California with much-needed organics recycling infrastructure, helping Perris and surrounding communities comply with mandates outlined in SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016)AB 1826 (Chesbro, Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014), and AB 1594 (Williams, Chapter 719, Statutes of 2014). The laws aim to remove much of the organic waste sent to California landfills each year. The material type represents more than a third of the state’s annual disposal stream.

    “CR&R’s new AD facility is the kind of infrastructure California needs to meet our targeted reductions for short-lived climate pollutants and reach AB 341’s ambitious goal of 75 percent recycling, composting, or source reduction of solid waste,” says Howard Levenson, deputy director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery’s Materials Management and Local Assistance Division. “We look at this facility as a model for how food waste can be handled throughout California.”

    CR&R spent more than a decade on research and development before breaking ground on the facility in 2014. “Currently, we’re about $56 million dollars into the $100 million dollar project,” Fahrion notes. “The grants we received have been critical to allow the development to occur as quickly as it has.” That includes a $3 million CalRecycle organics grant funded by California Climate Investments. The statewide program puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

    During construction, the AD project in Perris supports 100 full-time jobs in the city. “These are high-paying, skilled jobs,” project manager Mike Silva notes. “When we’re operating at full capacity, we’ll probably create an additional 25 long-term jobs.”

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    Full capacity may not be too far off. “We’re receiving demands now for phase three because we’re close to meeting our tonnage levels for phases one and two,” Fahrion explains.

    “A lot of people have been watching for us to get up and running and to show that this concept does work. And I think we’re proving that now.”

    —Lance Klug
    Images courtesy of CR&R Environmental Services

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    CalRecycle anaerobic digestion food rescue
    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on May 4, 2017