2017 Another Year of Progress for CalRecycle—and California’s Sustainability Campaign

CalRecycle oversees initiatives that have helped further California’s sustainability by diverting recyclable materials away from landfills and toward beneficial reuse. This protects human health and the environment, and conserves natural resources. Our aim is to turn the state’s waste stream into a supply stream, and in doing so integrate the “green” economy into the mainstream. In 2017, we made great progress by investing both financially and legislatively in the programs and infrastructure needed to recycle more of our waste. Here’s a look at last year’s highlights.

$24 Million in Grants to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

CalRecycle’s effort to transform the state’s waste management paradigm got a monumental boost with the passage of Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, Chapter 355, Statutes of 2015), which establishes requirements to reduce organic waste disposal. To meet targets of 50 percent reduction by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025, California will need to invest in additional infrastructure to handle the increased volume of organics diverted from landfills, including building new facilities and stimulating new markets for recycled organic products like compost, fertilizers, and biofuels. CalRecycle estimates the state will need up to 100 new composting and in-vessel digestion facilities, at a likely capital investment of $2 billion to $3 billion.

Part of this investment will come in the form of California Climate Investments that are appropriated through the state budget and funded by Cap-and-Trade dollars. This year, CalRecycle awarded $24 million in grants to help convert more of the state’s organic waste into renewable energy and compost.  

$5 Million to Fight Climate Change, Feed Hungry

As part of the state’s effort to combat climate change, divert organic materials from landfills and alleviate food insecurity in California, CalRecycle launched a new grant program with $5 million worth of funding to target food waste prevention and food rescue. (An additional $4.38 million in funding has been allocated for 2018.) These investments also come from Cap-and-Trade revenue.

AB 1219

California continues to push the envelope on diverting organic material from landfills, which reduces methane gas emissions that occur when such green waste decomposes in the dump. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1219, which helps clarify protections for food donors, who sometimes hesitate to donate food for fear of civil and criminal liability. Every year, more than 5.5 million tons of food are tossed into the trash, and a lot of that food is still edible, wholesome, and safe for consumption. Diverting food waste away from landfills helps protect human health by combatting food insecurity and fighting climate change.

Fire Cleanups

California was hit hard this year by devastating wildfires throughout the state. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) tasked CalRecycle to conduct wildfire debris removal operations in Butte, Nevada, and Yuba counties, and operations in each of these counties were completed ahead of schedule. CalRecycle established a debris removal operations center in Marysville to coordinate recovery efforts and provide a base of operations for field crews and homeowners in need of assistance.

SB 458

In October, Governor Brown signed into law SB 458 (Wiener, Chapter 648, Statutes of 2017), which authorizes up to five limited-term pilot projects to improve redemption opportunities in communities that don’t have nearby recycling centers.

SB 458 allows cities or counties in rural areas or that have many grocery stores without nearby recycling centers to apply for a pilot program. If accepted, they will have increased flexibility in how recycling centers may operate. The expectation is that this increased flexibility will make it easier for entrepreneurs to run programs that provide redemption opportunities near grocery stores.

— Christina Files
Posted on Jan 25, 2018

Summary: CalRecycle oversees initiatives that have helped further California’s sustainability by diverting recyclable materials away from landfills and toward beneficial reuse.