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

  • 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

  • La La Land’s Latest Trend: Community Composting

    Local man transforming Los Angeles one neighborhood at a time

    To outsiders, Los Angeles can seem a bit intimidating. It’s the second largest city in America, the most populous county in the country, and a traffic congestion juggernaut that has commuters seeing red on the daily. It’s where stars are made and trends are born.

    Michael Martinez is not intimidated.

    It’s the only way to explain what this West Covina native has accomplished in just four years, transforming a bold idea from a grade school garden into one of the most high-profile community composting programs in California. “LA Compost started as a pilot project in 2013 with a goal to keep organic material in the community, so neighbors could start seeing it as a resource and not waste,” the nonprofit’s founder and executive director recalls. Now, with eight community composting hubs throughout Los Angeles County, plans to add 10 more in 2017, and a waiting list of about 40 potential locations, LA Compost is on track to become the first county-wide community-based composting program in the state. Just as profound, the nonprofit provides a localized model for how individuals and neighborhoods can get involved in California’s fight against climate change.

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    Michael Martinez (right) with volunteers at LA Compost

    You could say Martinez was born for this moment. He was raised to appreciate the source of his meals: “My father always valued the importance of food and ensured my siblings and I understood its story.” And he was acutely aware of what too often came next: “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was very familiar with the landfills in West Covina and Puente Hills.” Perhaps that’s why he was so disturbed by the disconnect he witnessed from his fifth-grade students. “Not a lot of kids could trace a carrot beyond the supermarket or saw anything grow from the ground before,” he recalls.

    From there, an idea was born—an ambitious new program to build soil health and community health using compost as a vehicle. Martinez started a school garden and composting site with his fellow teachers in West Covina. A high school soon followed, and Martinez’s phone started ringing. “Friends and families and people I knew throughout the city started asking if they could get involved.” Within a few years, a local church funded the construction of a community garden and compost center at the high school where the church congregates. Martinez credits home-field advantage with giving LA Compost its strong foundation. “I had a lot of connections from schools, churches, and businesses,” Martinez continues. “I knew I could really get a good start and some flexibility if I messed up a thing or two.”

    Expanding his neighborhood composting concept beyond the familiar borders of West Covina took courage and a leap of faith, but Martinez says he had confidence in the communities that make up Los Angeles. “For me, it’s about tapping into that potential and diversity from ZIP code to ZIP code to create a decentralized model that collectively has a bigger impact.” Along the way, Martinez says he’s been able to navigate his way through state and local regulations without a problem, paying special attention to hauling agreements and various state and local permitting requirements. “What we offer is smaller, individual operations with a lot of on-site local solutions that don’t require a lot of movement of materials,” he adds.

    LA Compost and similar community composting groups throughout the state are crucial partners in California’s effort to reduce short-lived climate pollutants that contribute to global warming. When sent to landfills, organic waste decomposes and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide. Compost use provides a simple, proven way to build carbon content and hold more water in soils, which is essential for building climate resilience.

    “California’s diversion goal and the effort to get three-quarters of all organics out of landfills by 2025 cannot be attained without a variety of programs and community efforts of all sizes,” notes Robert Horowitz, environmental scientist with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. “So long as your community composting program stays under 100 cubic yards of materials on site at any time and 750 square feet, you should not need a solid waste permit.” He says most community garden compost sites don’t come close to that volume. “My advice is keep it small, and even if you intend to stay way under 100 cubic yards and 750 square feet, I recommend getting to know the inspectors at your local environmental health department.  They will let you know if there are local regulations or other concerns.”

    By the start of 2017, LA Compost’s eight hubs were diverting more than 8,000 pounds of organic material from landfills each month. Looking toward future expansions, Martinez says maintaining standards is top priority. “I want the bins to be clean. I want best practices taking place. I want every hub to be owned by the community in which it’s located.” Over the past few years, Martinez says he’s noticed a growing interest in composting and more excitement among citizens who want to get involved. “I would say do what works for you and your schedule,” whether it’s participating in a community composting operation or starting a compost pile in your own backyard. “Do what works for you. Composting happens. Nature is very forgiving. Just have fun with it.”

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    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Apr 3, 2017

  • Lettuce in Landfills Leads to Climate Change


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    Yes, you read that right. Landfilled organic materials (like landscape trimmings and food waste) produce methane gas, which is a short-lived climate pollutant that negatively affects our environment and contributes to changes in Earth’s temperature and weather patterns.

    Wait a second—doesn’t organic material decompose into compost?

    Yes it does, but only if it’s in the right environment. Composting is a process of organic decomposition, but it requires a special recipe of nitrogen, carbon, water, and air with an extra dash of fungus and bacteria for good measure. The most basic compost recipe calls for blending roughly equal parts green or wet material (which is high in nitrogen) and brown or dry material (which is high in carbon) into a pile or enclosure. Add water and fluff the materials to add air, and then microorganisms break down the material over time.

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    Landfills are not an ideal environment for composting because food waste is often enclosed in plastic trash bags, and all waste is buried, removing it from access to water and air. Organic material does decompose over time, but it produces methane gas when it breaks down outside of the composting process. In fact, landfills are the second-largest cause of methane gas in California.

    How bad is methane gas, really?

    Pretty bad. Methane gas has a short life span in our atmosphere in comparison to other greenhouse gases, but it has a stronger potency and does more damage. While carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for more than half the warming impact from human-caused emissions, methane is a far more powerful warming agent than CO2. Over a twenty year period, one ton of methane has the warming effect of 72 tons of CO2 . Methane emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills are a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to global climate change. Methane emissions occur in the production of oil and gas, during drilling and coal extraction, and in food and agriculture waste.

    How do we reduce methane gas in our environment?

    The solution is pretty simple: divert organic materials away from landfills and into composting and anaerobic digestion facilities that produce biofuels. Organic materials account for a significant portion of California’s overall waste stream: up to 37 percent! Eighteen percent of California’s waste stream is comprised of disposed food waste, which includes waste that can be prevented, recovered for donation, or composted.

    In September 2016, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) to dramatically reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions and to steer California in a new direction for managing organic materials. The law establishes targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the disposal of organic waste from a 2014 baseline level by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.

    Diverting 75 percent of organic materials from landfills will make a significant impact on California. It will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the amount of trash that we bury in landfills, create new green jobs, and benefit our state’s agricultural sector with soil enriching compost.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 9, 2017