New Statewide Commission Explores Ways to Adapt California Recycling
In the wake of changing global markets for recyclable materials , California’s new Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling is getting right to work on strategies to help boost waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. Launched virtually on June 24, the commission of 17 representatives of various stakeholder groups will spend the next six months developing policy recommendations to help clean up California’s recycling stream and strengthen markets for recyclable materials.
“As the fifth largest economy in the world, we not only have a responsibility to be an environmental leader, but we also have an opportunity to change the national and global agenda when it comes to managing materials and resources,” California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld told the group of commission members. “While some point to National Sword policies and other import limitations as a ‘crisis,’ for me, it’s really an opportunity to make sure we clean up the global system and reinvest in California.”
The Commission Includes Recyclers, Haulers, Environmentalists, Jurisdictions, and More
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) selected the diverse group of commissioners from a pool of applicants representing a wide range of public agencies, private solid waste enterprises, and environmental organizations in large, small, urban, suburban and rural communities throughout California. Giving so many sectors a seat at the table will enable the commission to arrive at solutions that take various priorities and barriers into account.
|John Bouchard||Teamsters 350, Principle Officer|
|Deborah Cadena||Kern County Recycling|
|John Davis||Mojave Desert and Mountain Recycling Authority|
|Jan Dell||The Last Beach Cleanup, Founder|
|Jeff Donlevy||Ming’s Recycling, General Manager|
|Laura Ferrante||Waste Alternatives, Owner|
|Joseph Kalpakoff||Mid Valley Disposal, CEO|
|Nick Lapis||Californians Against Waste, Director of Advocacy|
|Manuel Medrano||City of Chula Vista, Environmental Services Manager|
|Alex Oseguera||Waste Management, Director of Government Affairs|
|Eric Potashner||Recology, Senior Director of Strategic Affairs|
|Heidi Sanborn||National Stewardship Action Council|
|Ann Schneider||Millbrae Vice Mayor|
|Coby Skye||LA County Public Works, Assistant Deputy Director|
|Sara Toyoda||City of Indio, Environmental Programs Coordinator|
|Richard Valle||Tri-CED Community Recycling, CEO|
|Tedd Ward||Del Norte Solid Waste Management Director|
A Goal to Transform Waste into Resources
Over the next six months, the commission will evaluate the current state of recycling in California and recommend policies to reduce contamination in the curbside recycling stream and improve markets for recyclable materials. By January 1, 2021, the commission will offer those policy recommendations to CalRecycle. The goal is to turn more of California’s waste stream into a supply source for California businesses to create new jobs, combat pollution, conserve natural resources, and make California healthier and more sustainable for future generations.
The commission will also provide regular feedback on public messaging and educational materials to encourage recycling and minimize the contamination of materials in curbside recycling programs.
Addressing Domestic Materials Markets and Clearer Recycling Standards
In addition to approving its charter and organizational structure, commissioners used their initial meeting to select Heidi Sanborn and Richard Valle to serve as chair and vice chair.
Sanborn has worked in the materials management industry for nearly 30 years in roles with the California Integrated Waste Management Board (which later became CalRecycle), industry consulting, and as founding director of the California Product Stewardship Council and the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC). Sanborn is currently the Executive Director at NSAC.
Valle has worked in the recycling industry for forty years in roles that include Chairman of Alameda County’s Recycling Board, councilmember for the City of Union City, and CEO of Tri-CED Community Recycling. Valle currently serves as President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
Both Sanborn and Valle said they look forward to helping California clean up its recycling stream.
“I believe this Statewide Recycling Commission will be the forum from which a stronger domestic market for our materials will be born and uniform recycling standards will be created so California residents will have clear direction in their efforts to protect the environment,” said Valle.
California’s Strategy to Rise from a Recycling Downturn
Right now, California is feeling the fallout from a global market disruption as well as declining prices for recycled materials.
Historically, about a third of California’s recyclable material was exported to overseas markets as the state largely operated under a “Collect-Sort-Export” model, with some domestic manufacturing, to manage its recyclable materials.
Exports have been steadily declining since 2011, due in part to changes in foreign import policies that severely limited markets for recycled commodities. These policies, along with competitively lower costs of virgin (raw) materials, have contributed to a dramatic decline in value for some of California’s most commonly exported recyclables. The lack of available markets can sometimes result in potentially recyclable material discarded into California’s already overburdened landfills.
COVID-19 made these problems worse. When the pandemic hit California, safety concerns translated to heightened demand for single-use plastics such as water bottles, personal protective equipment, and grocery bags. At the same time, the reduction in workers available to accept recyclables or process materials contributed to a decline in recycled feedstock.
In combination, these global disruptions create a big challenge for California and its recycling industry, but they also provide the state with a new opportunity to innovate a new model that creates green jobs, supports new markets, reduces pollution, and conserves our natural resources.
What Are the Next Steps?
CalRecycle will continue to host the online commission meetings as it works to fulfill tasks set out by the California Recycling Market Development Act (AB 1583, Eggman, Chapter 690, Statutes of 2019), signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom late last year.
With the commission expected to provide recommendations by January 1, 2021, its members agreed to meet every first and third Wednesday morning of the month. Its next meeting is scheduled for July 15th from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
How Can You Get Involved?
The Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling meetings are open to the public and can be viewed here.
Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have meeting dates and other related information sent your email, subscribe to the Recycling Commission listserv here.