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

  • Single-Use Straws Suck

    Transitioning to Reusables 101

    I’ve never seen my dad use a straw in my entire life. In fact, I have childhood memories of us using the drive-through at fast food restaurants and him saying, “No straw please,” to the employee. I’m not sure why he didn’t use them, but regardless of the reason, I can’t help but think about how many straws he’s turned down in his lifetime. And if you’ve been paying attention to environmental news lately, you may have noticed single-use plastic straws are the new hot topic. While statistics on how many single-use plastic straws are used daily are unverified, it’s not hard to get a rough idea—just think back to how many you’ve used yourself at restaurants, fast food joints, coffee shops, bars, and parties over the last year. Then think about all the other people drinking those beverages around the planet, and how long they’re actually using the straw for. It could be anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes based on how thirsty you are! So why are single-use plastic straws the low-hanging fruit of the environmental world? It’s because, unless you require one for medical reasons, they are generally unnecessary. If you just enjoy slurping, want to keep your lipstick neat, have sensitive teeth, or are concerned about keeping oceans free of plastic waste, here are reusable options that are a lot more planet-friendly.

    Reusable Straw

    Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel straws are what I use and I feel pretty comfortable recommending them to others. They are durable, easy to clean, and very sleek looking. If you like your drinks to stay ice-cold, they keep the drink cooler in your glass all the way to your lips. I received a set of six as a gift from my mom—they cost about $7 and will last a lifetime. I keep one in my purse, one at my desk at work, a few at home, and one in my car. This sets me up for a SUCK-sessful beverage experience while protecting the environment at the same time. Stainless steel straws (say that three times fast!) come in different shapes, sizes, and colors to fit your lifestyle—bent, straight, smoothie/boba, rainbow—whatever your environmental heart desires, there’s a straw for you!

    Glass

    I do not personally use glass straws because I’m a klutz and would undoubtedly break one, but some people really enjoy them because you can see right through them, which eliminates any doubt about cleanliness. They can also be customized -- think blown glass, but in straw form. If you choose to use a glass straw, I recommend also making or purchasing a case to protect it from getting shattered. While glass straws are made to be strong, they are still fragile. Additionally, cases and bags are a good accessory for any straw to prevent them from getting dirty.

    Silicone

    I do have personal experience with silicone straws, but they wouldn’t be my go-to choice. They are excellent for children because they are soft and flexible. But, in my experience they can be more difficult to clean and also they tend to get sticky. I often carried one in my purse and unfortunately it was a lint magnet! A small metal or plastic case may eliminate the lint issue. Silicone is also a better option than plastic because it’s less likely to leach chemicals into your food or drinks.

    Bamboo

    Probably the oldest type of straw, bamboo is also the most renewable and natural. I don’t have personal experience using one, but they are a fun, all-natural way to enjoy your beverage. However, they do not last forever since they are essentially an organic material, but the good news is they are biodegradable unless they are finished and chemically treated for longevity.  

    Plastic

    While I recommend using any of the aforementioned options over a single-use plastic straw, reusable plastic is also an option. It’s still plastic, so there is the possibility it will end up lasting hundreds of years if eventually discarded in a landfill. It’s not the ideal choice, but it is reusable and is probably a good option for children instead of fragile glass or potentially teeth-chipping stainless steel.

    Accessories

    I mentioned accessories like cases and pouches to keep your straws safe and sanitary. You may also consider purchasing a straw brush, which basically looks like a pipe cleaner from your elementary school arts and crafts project. Often straws come with one and it’s the best way to keep your straw clean. Finally, for those who worry about chipping their teeth on the ridged stainless steel option, there are soft silicone tips available.

    Now that you know your options, I will leave you with two more pieces of advice about straw use in public. When at a bar or restaurant (or anywhere that serves straws) politely ask that they leave the straw out of your order. More and more cities are banning straws unless requested, but for those that haven’t, you can make your voice heard by politely declining. And finally, if I am accidentally given a single-use straw, I use it. There’s no use in picking it out, throwing it away, and replacing it with my own reusable one.

    I could go on for hours about straws, but if you are interested in learning more about the effects of single-use straws on your own time, here are some related resources.

    The Last Plastic Straw

    A brief history of how plastic straws took over the world —National Geographic

     Glass straws? Straw straws? Here are some eco-friendly alternatives to plastic —USA Today

    California’s new plastic straw law takes effect in 2019. Here’s what’s happening.  —San Diego Union Tribune


    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on May 16, 2019

  • CalRecycle Newbie Maneuvers the Learning Curve

    Syd Fong

     

    Seriously, who knew? I’ve been saying that a lot since I arrived at CalRecycle as its new Public Information Officer. I remember thinking I had some type of understanding about this department—it’s all about recycling, right? Nope, not even close.

    Here are some CalRecycle links that I think that are helpful not only for someone in my position but really for any Californian who may be concerned about our environment. 

    SB1383: This law establishes methane emissions reduction targets in a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) in various sectors of California's economy. This would require a 50 percent reduction in statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.  So reducing food waste and composting will be huge for all Californians to understand.

    Where to recycle: I know my relatives have been asking me this a lot since I got the job (like somehow I’m an overnight expert or something), so this link was great to share so I can seem somewhat competent when I talk to my family. 

    Glossary of waste prevention terms: What’s sustainability or worm composting?  This page will help to figure what those terms mean—and possibly prepare you to be a contestant on Jeopardy. (Alex, I’ll take Xeriscaping for $400, please.)

    Wildfire debris cleanup: CalRecycle has been managing the debris cleanup for the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire, and Hill Fire.  It’s just another aspect of this department that I find fascinating.   

    As you can tell, there’s so much to learn here, but I’m excited to be a part of this team and soak up as much information as I can in the very near future.  Wish me luck. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on May 9, 2019

  • Environmental Justice: Inclusive Decision-Making

    On the drive from Sacramento to Lamont through the San Joaquin Valley on Highway 99, we passed rows upon rows of produce and concrete jungles amid the visible air pollution haze. Last month I traveled with Team Environmental Justice member Julia Dolloff and Maria Salinas, CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice Manager to Lamont, a community just outside of Bakersfield. We were there to present to community members about CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice Program, SB 1383 regulations and the estimated 50 to 100 new large-scale organic waste facilities that will be built in the state as a result, and how to participate in the formal rulemaking process. Visiting an underrepresented community always accentuates the importance of our work to protect all Californians from environmental harm.

    This underlying principle is why the SB 1383 regulations have incorporated community input. For example, the draft regulations allow for the use of community composting operations in jurisdictions to help manage organic waste. In addition, when jurisdictions plan for their organic waste capacity, they must conduct community outreach for new or expanded facilities, seek feedback on benefits and impacts, and consult with community composting operations.

    In light of the impact implementing SB 1383  (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) will have on the state, staff recently created the Environmental Justice Compost Facilities Map, which overlays existing organics recycling facilities with CalEnviroScreen 3.0, a tool that identifies communities disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution. Identifying facility locations increases transparency and empowers communities to participate in the decision-making process with full knowledge of facility permits, inspections, and enforcement actions.

    Lamont community meeting with CalRecycle staff, Kern County employees, and community members, and Enviroscreen map

    Left: CalRecycle staff members, Kern County employees, and Lamont community members met to discuss environmental justice issues. Right: On CalEnviroScreen 3.0, Lamont is in the top third most burdened percentile and surrounded on all sides by the 90th percentile. Three facilities are located in the nearby vicinity. 

    The Lamont community meeting incorporated environmental justice community engagement best practices by holding the event in their community in the evening after typical work hours and providing interpretation services. Not everyone spoke English but with interpretive services, we were able to discuss their personal experiences with pollution, food waste, and waste collection services. For example, one community member noted that many Lamont residents speak different Spanish dialects, which makes it difficult for residents to understand even Spanish translated materials, but that graphic bin labels can transcend the language barrier.

    At the meeting, Gustavo Aguirre talked about his efforts to create a community benefits agreement with the nearby Recology composting facility. The agreement commits Recology to create an odor minimization plan, implement air pollution mitigation measures, and invest yearly in community benefiting projects. At our meeting, multiple people chimed in that this approach was successful for both Recology and their community.  

    Staff from Kern County’s local enforcement agency and other county government officials also attended the meeting. This allowed for a dialogue between the local officials and community members. One exciting moment was when a Kern County employee talked about the Waste Hunger Not Food pilot project. The pilot project implements the food rescue element of SB 1383 regulations by distributing edible, surplus food from restaurants, schools, and markets.

    This community meeting demonstrated the importance of information sharing and solution-building with all involved parties. The conversation was richer because there were representatives from the state, the county, and the community. Getting people historically and systematically disadvantaged in the room and at the table is what environmental justice seeks to accomplish.

    ---Ciaran Gallagher, CalRecycle Capital Fellow

    Posted on In the Loop by Ciaran Gallagher, CalRecycle Capital Fellow on May 6, 2019