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

  • California Ramps Up Green Waste Recycling

    Get ready! California is gearing up to implement a new recycling program to combat climate change. Starting in 2022, cities and counties in California will be required to provide organics recycling collection services to all residents and businesses, which is a significant step toward combating the effects of climate change in California. Then- Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395 , Statutes of 2016) into law in 2016, establishing targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the level of statewide organics disposal by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025. The bill establishes an additional target that not less than 20 percent of currently disposed edible food be recovered for human consumption by 2025. Even though SB 1383 regulations do not go into effect until 2022, local jurisdictions are working with haulers and preparing to collect more organic waste from businesses and homeowners.

    California generates about 23 million tons of organic waste every year, and 5 to 6 million tons of that is food waste.

    When we landfill any recyclable material, it negatively affects our environment by requiring that we acquire raw virgin materials (like oil to make plastic or trees to make paper). Organic waste has an additional negative impact on California’s environment: When landfilled, organic waste emits methane gas. Methane is a climate-altering greenhouse gas with an impact on our atmosphere 70 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon. In other words, landfilling our yard and food waste directly contributes to climate change in California, leading to increased air pollution and corresponding health concerns like asthma, drier forests that burn in wildfires more easily, cyclical droughts, and coastline erosion due to rising seas.

    Fortunately, organic waste can be recycled into beneficial products like compost, a powerful soil amendment, and renewable natural gas, an environmentally preferable alternative to fossil fuel. California compost is used by California farmers to increase the nutrients, water-holding capacity, and carbon content in soil, which helps grow stronger, healthier crops. Many cities throughout the state use RNG to power their public buses and city vehicle fleets.

    SB 1383 will provide many benefits to California. The statewide organics recycling program will create new recycling and manufacturing jobs. It will also help Californians save millions in health care costs each year by improving air quality and decreasing health impacts, such as premature deaths and hospital visits—especially for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung disease.

    SB 1383 will also benefit our most vulnerable citizens. California’s growing edible food recovery network will capture food to help the 1 in 8 Californians, 1 in 2 UC students, and 1 in 5 California children who are food-insecure.

    SB 1383 is coming, and it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening our economy, and improving public health and the environment. You can learn more about SB 1383 on our Short-Lived Climate Pollutants webpage. You can learn more about organics recycling on our Recycle Organics webpage.

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Feb 11, 2019

  • Environmental Pathways

    Preparing Future Leaders to Protect the Environment

    In January, a handful of CalRecycle staff members participated in mock interviews with environmentally focused high school students in the San Francisco Unified School District.

    The interviews were part of the school district’s Career Pathways program, which introduces students to different career paths. Mentors help students in the program explore their personal strengths and interests, build their resumes, and participate in mock interviews and internships to prepare for their individual college and career paths.

    The program’s Energy, Environment, and Utilities pathway uses project-based learning to provide a more authentic, work-based learning experience for students interested in those career fields. Last month’s mock interviews were a chance for students to gain experience before their formal interviews for upcoming summer internships. CalRecycle staffers provided feedback on student resumes, shared stories (good and bad) about their interview experiences, and provided tips and constructive criticism to help prepare students for future interviews.

    “Collaborative programs like this are great examples of how to give students the practical skills they’ll need to navigate their work and college goals,” said Bendan Blue, an environmental scientist with of CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment.

    Angela Vincent, Maria Salinas, and Julia Dolloff provide feedback to students at Mission High School.

     

    Having the opportunity to interview high school juniors and seniors in preparation for formal interviews was both fun and eye-opening. For Julia Dolloff, an environmental scientist at CalRecycle, it was a reminder of how both gender and upbringing can influence a young woman’s confidence in her professional abilities. Dolloff found it important to remind the young women she interviewed that they have skills in leadership, innovation, problem solving, and creativity, even if they acquired those skills in an unpaid setting. For example, caring for a younger sibling or helping out at a parent’s small business are experiences students can cite as testaments to their leaderships abilities. Through constructive feedback during and after the interviews, Dolloff was able to help these young women portray a stronger sense of confidence in their professional skills.

    “It was rewarding to be that strong example, with my colleagues Maria Salinas and Angela Vincent, of women succeeding in the workplace,” Dolloff said. “I hope others feel inclined to work with youth, and especially young women, through similar events to help support them on their way to greatness.”

    For CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice program manager, Maria Salinas, the experiences sparked an influx of joy and sadness. “There was an odd paradox between the beautiful old buildings with much-needed repairs,” said Salinas. She enjoyed the bold student artwork against the old architecture and hearing some teachers speaking Spanish to their students. “If only adults were as creative as they were in their youth and more adults spoke their first language more freely,” Salinas said. Many of the students who participated in the mock interviews were first- or second-generation Americans.

    Another insight Salinas noted was the youthful innocence of the students juxtaposed with their ambitions. “It happens so much in serving others. … We were there to inspire, and they inspired us,” Salinas said. “I told students to reach for the sky. It reminded me to do the same in my own life and career.” 

    A group of students and professionals who participated in one of the mock interview sessions.

     

    The experience was as rewarding for the CalRecycle staffers as it was for the students. As a volunteer, I realized that I also could benefit from most of the advice I gave to the students. When asked to provide an example of leadership, one student expressed that he felt he wasn’t a leader because he was shy. I tried to build his confidence by pointing out attributes that he could cite for potential employers, such as listening well, paying attention to detail, and being able to take direction. Pushing himself out of his comfort zone to take on leadership roles could help him grow personally and professionally, despite his shyness, I told him.

    As a fellow introvert, I felt I could relate to the student. It is important for me to listen to my own advice to work on my leadership skills and confidence in professional settings.

    Staff members all felt fortunate to be able to participate, both for their own personal growth and to give back to others. Thanks to the CalRecycle staff who were able to take the time to help develop our future leaders. It is a good reminder of why we do what we do: protect the environment for generations to come. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Feb 7, 2019

  • My Time as a CalRecycle Student Assistant

    It's safe to say that a year ago, I knew very little about the recycling industry in California. But since I joined CalRecycle’s Knowledge Integration Section as a Student Assistant in April of last year, I have become somewhat of an expert.

    Studying environmental policy at UC Davis, I was excited to join CalRecycle and gain as much knowledge as I could on what goes into the regulatory process. In my time here, I’ve done countless eye-opening activities such as sitting in on meetings with my supervisors, assisting with rulemaking packages, and attending site visits of Northern California material recovery facilities.

    Site visits are easily my favorite part of working with CalRecycle. After attending the safety training, I was able to visit four facilities in the area (Sacramento, Galt, etc.) that collect and sort waste, retrieving the recyclable material for resale. Donning highlighter yellow vests and rubber boots, my colleagues and I were led on tours of these facilities, learning more about their operations and how the recent China bans have affected their business. Most places detailed the difficulty of selling their recyclables with new contamination standards in affect overseas.

    Juliet Vaughn


    Juliet Vaughn models a safety vestand hard hat on a site tour.

    Seeing trash being moved and sorted on a conveyor right in front of me was an eye-opening experience. Giant tractors push waste into a pile that makes its way onto a conveyor belt. Coffee cups, to-go boxes, and laundry detergent containers rush past you as a worker picks off certain types of plastic from the line. It goes to show how there really is no “away” and just how important laws like banning plastic straws really are. One of our site visits was to observe a sort crew for the Waste Characterization Study our office conducts. Workers take a large sample of waste and hand sort it by material type (see a previous In The Loop blog post for a video). The goal of the study is to better understand the makeup of California’s waste, with special attention to organics.

    Another part of my work I enjoy is being able to put the knowledge I gain in school to good use. There have been plenty of times when I learned about something at my university one day, only to encounter the exact concept at work soon after. When a colleague was trying to remember what “SEP” stood for, I said, “Supplemental Environmental Project!” with confidence, having learned the acronym in an environmental law class. Putting together rulemaking packages for AB 901, I’ve encountered plenty of documents I learned about in class, including CEQA notices and economic impact statements.

    What they didn’t teach me in school, however, was the tremendous amount of work that goes into crafting a regulation and finalizing it. The packages I put together were upwards of a thousand pages, the product of the hard work put in by people in my office. I took a special interest in all of the thought that goes into the wording of a regulation and how it is interpreted by stakeholders. Replacing just one word in a regulatory text could mean changing everything.

    As I prepare to graduate in June and attend law school in the fall, I won’t forget my time here at CalRecycle. Working with the Knowledge Integration Section has given me insight into all the work that goes into making regulations and the importance of fighting for environmental protection in California. This office has become my community, and I hope to continue working with CalEPA in some capacity one day.

    --Juliet Vaughn

    Juliet Vaughn is a student assistant at CalRecycle.

    Posted on In the Loop by Juliet Vaughn on Feb 4, 2019