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

  • Cities, Schools Aim to Become Zero Waste Communities

    What is “zero waste”? To some, it means reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill to zero. To others, zero waste is a process and a philosophy that involves a redesign of products and a redesign of consumption, so all material goods can be reused or recycled—or not needed at all. A number of local jurisdictions in California have implemented zero waste programs or passed resolutions related to zero waste.

    In 2014, Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) became the first school district in the nation to commit to the goal of zero waste.

    The city of Oceanside provides recycling bins and educational materials to each campus, measures the amount of waste the school produces, and educates the school community on how to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. By the end of the 2016/17 school year, the OUSD Zero Waste Initiative will have reached 13 of the OUSD’s 23 schools and saved the district nearly $100,000 in avoided landfill servicing fees. By the end of 2020, the city plans to implement its zero waste plan at all schools in the district.

    Kids Recycling At School

    Christa McAuliffe Elementary is one of the schools participating in the zero waste program.

    The students are trained to recognize different waste materials and to sort them accordingly for disposal or recycling. During lunchtime, a student “Green Team” helps sort lunch waste and teaches classmates about waste diversion and recycling. The school encourages parents to volunteer alongside their children, thereby spreading the impact of this educational program beyond the four walls of the school.

    We may or may not ever reach zero waste, but we continually work toward the goal. Today, a 90 percent reduction of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators is considered an achievable goal by such groups as the Zero Waste International Alliance and the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. However, each succeeding increment toward zero requires systematic changes and improvements, and a significant, collaborative effort.

    If you’d like to learn more about zero waste and what California cities and counties are doing to become zero waste communities, visit our Zero Waste webpage

    Posted on In the Loop on May 13, 2017

  • All About Earth Day

    U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in on April 22, 1970, and it served as a catalyst to bring a simmering environmental movement to the forefront of American consciousness. Just eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published a groundbreaking book titled Silent Spring that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet and connected our actions with the health of our environment. Carson observed that the heavy use of pesticides was killing off birds, making the forests silent. Some credit her book with jump-starting the environmental movement.

    In December 1970, real change came when Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By the U.S. EPA’s 10th anniversary, Congress had authorized significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation in the United States. As a leader in environmental policy, California followed suit and established complementary laws to care for our state.

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    Be sure to see our Earth Day Planning Guide, which includes events this weekend, later this month, and even in May, to commemorate the progress we have made and to continue to protect our natural resources. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 20, 2017

  • San Francisco Youth Help Meet Recycling, Landfill Diversion Goals

    The City of San Francisco has long been at the forefront of recycling and landfill diversion. Almost 20 years ago, the city introduced green waste bins and implemented a three-bin waste collection system in residential neighborhoods. Shortly after that, the city launched Food to Flowers! in its schools.

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    Food to Flowers! familiarizes students with the same waste management best practices the city encourages in residential neighborhoods: recycling, source separating, and understanding what materials are compostable.

    Program Director Tamar Hurwitz has been with Food to Flowers! for more than 14 years and has spearheaded the effort to develop a comprehensive educational component to food waste diversion and recycling in schools. The program includes image-based slideshow assemblies to educate K-12 students about recycling and the environment. Today, more than140 schools in San Francisco have implemented a food-scrap collection program that encompasses education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and vermicomposting with worms.

    “We teach students that nature gives us everything. Kids love animals. It’s a very natural instinct,” says Hurwitz. “We teach them that if we care about the animals, then we need to protect nature and we introduce zero waste as way to do that.” 

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    When Hurwitz began developing the program, she noticed many recycling mascots were bottles and cans with smiley faces on them. She didn’t find that very motivating. “I don’t want to save a can, but I do want to save an animal,” she says. Food to Flowers! created a phoenix bird mascot called Phoebe that children really love. “Kids remember Phoebe for years. … She’s beloved.” Phoebe is the star of the school assemblies and a recycling training video.

    The Food to Flowers! campaign includes installing green carts in cafeterias to collect food scraps. Students learn how to separate their food waste from plastic packaging and other non-compostable items. Fourth-graders are trained to be compost monitors,  and they wear bright orange aprons. The goal is to prompt students to stop and think about their trash rather than doing a “dump” and running off to recess.

    “It’s a reasonable request to ask students to dump food, sort out recyclables, and stack plastic trays,” says Hurwitz. “You have to make it consistent and support them when they are confused.” Compost monitors tell fellow students to think about compost in terms of worms. If a worm can eat it, it can go in the green cart.

    Hurwitz puts a lot of thought into the educational messaging. She recalls asking a classroom why trees are important and a student called out, “Because they give us paper!” Hurwitz realized she needed to reframe the question and asked why living trees are important. “The implication is that living trees have such value—we need to keep them alive.”

    Schools that implement the Food to Flowers! campaign often see benefits in many different areas beyond waste management. The program’s positive messages have a trickle-down effect. “When a school can incorporate a zero-waste program, it can help create a school culture of respect and teamwork,” says Hurwitz.  

    Waste issues plague most cities, but programs like Food to Flowers! model environmental stewardship to children so it becomes a natural and normal part of how they view their trash.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 6, 2017