Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is April 22. As we stay home to save lives, we can use our unified spirit to help save the planet, as well.
In the decades before Earth Day was founded, U.S. industry boomed with progress that included large, leaded fuel-guzzling cars and factories belching pollutants. The first Earth Day brought together everyday Americans, who called for a stop to the damage to water, air, plant life, and wildlife around them.
20 Million Americans Demanded Control over Pollution
After witnessing the aftermath of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in 1970. It catalyzed the simmering environmental movement, launching it to the forefront of American consciousness.
Photo of smoggy Los Angeles courtesy of U.S. EPA
Earth Day harnessed the passion of separate groups fighting against power plants, toxic waste sites, oil spills, car emission pollution, and the loss of forests. It pushed conservation, pollution management, and environmental stewardship to national awareness. The first Earth Day celebration acted as a cultural tipping point as 20 million Americans gathered to demand real change.
Unregulated factories bellowing toxic smoke were common before the US EPA formed in 1970.
It Didn’t Happen Overnight
- Eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet. 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.
- When the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969, it spurred demand for pollution control and a Federal Clean Water Act.
In 1968, NASA’s space program photos of the earth from the Apollo 8 mission communicated the smallness and fragility of our planet when seen from the distance and vastness of space.
Congress Responds with the U.S. EPA
Real change came less than eight months after the first Earth Day in December 1970 when Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tackle environmental issues. By the U.S. EPA’s tenth anniversary, Congress had passed significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation, including:
- Banning the toxic pesticide DDT
- Setting new car emissions standards and national air quality standards
- Improving water treatment facilities
- Addressing the practice of dumping chemicals into rivers and lakes
As a leader in environmental policy, California established its own laws to care for our state.
The Garbage Barge Made Us Think Seriously About Trash
In 1987 New York, like much of the country, experienced a shortage of landfill space, and local officials decided to ship 3,168 tons of trash to a North Carolina facility pilot program that would convert the trash into methane. North Carolina officials unexpectedly declined the load and the Garbage Barge, followed closely in national news coverage, continued to sail down and back up the North American coast looking for a place to unload. Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, and Belize also declined to accept it. After eight months at sea the barge returned to New York, which incinerated the trash and buried the ashes.
Finding the Best, Highest Use for Our Trash
This incident highlighted how poorly the country was managing its waste and helped usher into law California’s Integrated Waste Management Act, which established our 50 percent diversion jurisdictional requirement. The state has passed other significant legislation to recycle bottles, cans, tires, paint, motor oil, and mattresses. In 2016 a new recycling law passed to address organics waste, which makes up two-thirds of the trash sent to landfills. Reaching the law’s goals would reduce landfill methane emissions and divert 20 percent of currently disposed edible food to the one in eight Californians who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Saving Lives and Saving the Planet from Home
Earth Day has always centered on everyday Americans taking action to create cleaner air, water, and land. We can speak out to support policy that protects the environment. But we now have awareness of steps we can take in our daily lives that will save energy, reduce pollution, support renewable resources, and allow us to continue our convenient lifestyles without destroying our future.
You can even take action to help the environment from the safety of your own home.
- Use LED light bulbs
- Have energy and water efficient appliances
- Have a drought tolerant yard
- Reuse water bottles
- Take other action to help the Earth in your own way?
Post a photo, story, or video with #HowISaveThePlanet on our social media showing how you make every day Earth Day in your home.
Follow CalRecycle and CalEPA on social media for fun virtual Earth Day activities and see Californians come together to save the planet as we stay home to save lives.Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Public Affairs - Chris McSwain, Christina FIles, and Maria West on Apr 13, 2020
Most of us are sheltering-in-place right now, having already stocked up on non-perishable canned and frozen food. Since every foray into society could bring exposure to COVID-19, consider ways to maximize the food you have to last as long as possible and save you trips to the grocery store. It will also help you reduce food waste, a major contributor of greenhouse gases coming out of landfills.
Here are eight ways to stretch the food you’ve saved:
Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Mar 23, 2020
- Make a double batch of sauces, stews, beans, and casseroles, and save the rest in the freezer for a future weeknight dinner with zero cooking.
- Create a scrap bag in your freezer to use to make stock for soups and sauces. I have a scrap bag in my freezer full of food scraps. Any time you peel a carrot, slice an onion, or cut the edges off a bell pepper, you can divert the leftovers from the garbage into the scrap bag kept in the freezer. Once the scrap bag is full, simmer the contents with water over low heat for about an hour, then save the liquid for a tasty stock to make soups and sauces. Cook rice, beans, or quinoa in it to add extra flavor.
- Keep bread in the freezer and defrost a slice or two when you need them.
- Dried beans are cheap and freeze easily. You can cook a double batch in your crock pot and freeze half for an easy meal.
- Soups hold up well when they’re stored in containers in the freezer. You can even freeze individual servings for a quick meal on demand.
- Buy meat in bulk, divide it into single portions, and defrost as you need them. Meats can be cheaper in bulk and often have less packaging.
- Fruits like berries are simple to freeze. Place them on a cookie sheet, freeze them overnight, and transfer them to an empty container to store in the freezer. Frozen berries liven up morning smoothies.
- Butter freezes well and is easy to defrost when you get the baking itch. It’s also often cheaper to buy in bulk.
I hope these tips are as useful to you. To learn more about preventing food waste, please visit Save The Food. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Resource Library and CalRecycle’s Resource Directory.
After a catastrophic wildfire, getting “back to normal” is nearly impossible for any single property owner to handle. A family’s ability to rebuild—and the livability of the neighborhood—depends on what the family next door does, as well as the family next to them.
Todd Thalhamer at the site of the 2007 Boles Fire in Weed, Siskiyou County.
“Who wants to be the first house that’s developed, when you look out the window and all you see is nothing but ash and debris?” asks CalRecycle engineer Todd Thalhamer, the architect of a program that has cleaned up nearly 20,000 homes in the last decade. “When it comes right down to it, it’s a psychological issue—and a property value issue. If you clean up everything, you jump-start a community.”
The Integrated Waste Management Board, which later morphed into CalRecycle, started the Consolidated Debris Removal Program in 2007 to clean up the aftermath of the Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe. The majority of properties with affected homes drained into Angora Creek, which runs right into Lake Tahoe. This created an urgency to clean up debris before winter arrived and it washed into the famously clear and pristine lake. Crews were on the ground quickly. Firefighters extinguished most of the blaze by July 4. Ten days later, debris removal crews had the first home site cleared. The whole response effort was completed in three months.
Safe Enough for Our Own Children
From the beginning, this program balanced service to the homeowners, the community, and the environment. “At the time, I had a three-year-old,” Thalhamer recalled. “I’d tell the contractors, if it’s safe for my three-year-old to walk across this lot, then we know that a family is ready to rebuild.” Program staff have always valued this personal level of safety. This means cleaning up dangerous materials most homeowners don’t even realize lay in the ashes of their destroyed houses.
After a wildfire, property owners need experts to identify toxicity in the rubble and ashes.
A few of the invisible toxins common in residential burn scars include:
- Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, zinc, and lead, which is especially high in homes built before 1978.
- Asbestos, which is present in most homes built before 1985 and in some newer homes as well.
- Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, pesticides, and herbicides are common in most homes.
For CalRecycle, the disaster debris removal program extends the department’s mission to ensure that California safely manages our materials—whether toxic and recyclable or not—to their best and highest use. It’s what the department does day in and day out. CalRecycle staff are experts in this. The debris removal program intensifies this effort in the service to communities recovering from tragedy.
The Go-To Crew After Disasters
In the years immediately following the 2007 Angora Fire, the debris removal team was only activated one time—for the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. But in 2014, the Boles Fire in Siskiyou County swept into a neighborhood in Weed destroying over a hundred homes, echoing the devastation seven years previously in South Lake Tahoe. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) called on CalRecycle to respond, and the team has worked almost continuously on cleaning up wildfire debris since then.
Since 2014, CalRecycle has:
- Overseen 20 major disaster projects
- Removed 5.6 million tons of materials (65 percent from the 2019 clean up of the Camp Fire)
- Performed disaster recovery for 16 different counties, from Los Angeles to the Oregon border
- Cleaned and certified 17,297 properties as ready to rebuild in suburban neighborhoods, farms, mountain valley towns, scenic coastlines, and forested cabin areas.
We’re On a Mission from Cal OES
CalRecycle doesn’t take on these projects of its own volition. Cal OES must mission task CalRecycle before we can help. This can happen after Cal OES grants a request for assistance from a local jurisdiction in crisis. In fact, the only major incident in the past five years that CalRecycle didn’t mobilize to clean up was the 2017 North Bay fires, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handled.
For one key CalRecycle debris team member, the department has proven its expertise in clean up and managing the destroyed materials. “We’ve earned the confidence of others that we can handle projects this size with efficiency,” Alan Zamboanga said.
Zamboanga, who served as the finance chief or contract manager on most of the projects since 2014, points out that CalRecycle continues to demonstrate operational and financial efficiency, including the massive 11,000-property Camp Fire debris recovery project. “Because of our expertise and knowledge, we are the go-to people when it comes to wildfire debris.”
The 2007 Angora Fire Incident Management Team on the site of the last property cleaned.Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Feb 24, 2020