A New Twist on 'Out With the Old'

It’s a new year and time to reflect on lessons learned in 2018. At CalRecycle, we’re not big fans of “out with the old,” unless we’re talking about old, outmoded mindsets about “waste” vs. “material that can be used again to make cool new things.”

Take, for example, our Social Committees and our Zero Waste team, which teamed up to create the Inaugural Zero Waste Competition between Sacramento and Southern California staff for our Annual Summer Picnics.

The Sunshine Club, the Long Beach office’s Social Committee, has been putting on an annual Zero Waste picnic for the past five years. This year, they challenged Sacramento staff to a waste reduction competition. The prize? Bragging rights for the next year—plus a repurposed, upcycled Zero Waste trophy!

Zero Waste team members Priyanka Talanki and Benjamin Johnson.  Kathleen Strickely showing off the Zero Waste trophy

Left: Zero Waste team members Priyanka Talanki and Benjamin Johnson built the Zero Waste trophy from upcycled material.  Right: Kathleen Strickely shows off the completed trophy.

The Social Committees and Zero Waste team worked diligently to reduce waste upstream by asking attendees to bring their own “mess kit” and offering reusable plates and utensils for a $1 rental fee on the day of each picnic. Food waste was composted, excess food was donated, and beverage containers were sent to a recycling center to redeem for the California Refund Value (CRV). All remaining waste was weighed and divided by the number of attendees to come up with a comparable metric for the two picnics: “per-capita” disposal, or the amount of waste per person. 

As a team-building exercise, the staffers took an old soda bottle, scrap aluminum, and a piece of driftwood to create the Zero Waste trophy. 

And, the winner of the inaugural Zero Waste competition, weighing in at .037 lbs. of waste per person, was … (drum roll please) … Southern California!

Sacramento came in at a close second with .05 lbs. of waste per person.

Together, CalRecycle staff diverted 139.9 lbs. of waste from landfills by reusing, recycling, composting, and donating excess materials from the Annual Summer Picnics.

If reducing waste is on your New Year’s Resolution list, that's great! Planning a Zero Waste event is not rocket science. However, it does take some extra effort. Ask yourself: How can you reduce waste in the first place? What kinds of material do you anticipate generating? How are you going to collect material? What is the highest and best use of the discards? Who is going to divert the material? It is essential to have a dedicated team of people who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty!

As CalRecycle staff, it is important for us to embody the values of our department. As the leading agency on waste and recycling, it is important for us to “walk the walk” and lead by example. Striving for zero waste events is a small, but fun way to carry our mission to conserve resources, protect the environment, and help combat climate change.

The Long Beach office accepting the Zero Waste trophy on behalf of Southern California staff.

Long Beach office staff accepted the Zero Waste trophy on behalf of Southern California staff.

— Angela Vincent
Posted on Jan 7, 2019

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Summary: It’s a new year and time to reflect on lessons learned in 2018. At CalRecycle, we’re not big fans of “out with the old,” unless we’re talking about old, outmoded mindsets about “waste” vs. “material that can be used again to make cool new things.”