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A Look at CalRecycle’s Disposal and Recycling Report

The state’s recycling rate dropped to 44 percent, down from 50 percent in each of 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Last week, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) issued its 2017 update on the state of disposal and recycling in California.

Among the results, it was noted that the state’s recycling rate actually dropped to 44 percent. The rate had reached 50 percent in each of 2012, 2013 and 2014. But it dipped to 47 percent in 2015 and then again in 2016.

With the state facing a goal of 75 percent recycling by 2020, that leaves a lot of ground to cover in a shrinking amount of time.

 “CalRecycle’s report highlights some of the challenges the industry is facing nationwide in connection with recycling, but also reflects a California-specific factor relating to the recent closure of hundreds of local recycling centers throughout the state,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman says. “With a potential Chinese ban on the import of certain recyclable materials on the horizon and continued high levels of contamination, SWANA and its members will work with all stakeholders to improve the current practices, review current recycling metrics, and reverse the recent decline in the recycling rate in California.”

According to the report, in 2016, 35.2 million tons of material were disposed of in landfills in California or exported to out-of-state landfills. In addition, 7.5 million tons of material were managed through disposal-related activities. As a result, CalRecycle calculated a disposal rate of 6.0 pounds per person per day, marking the fourth consecutive year the state has posted increases in both overall and per capital disposal.

According to the report, in order for the state to reach its 75 percent goal, more than half of the solid waste that is currently disposed would need to be reduced, recycled or composted.

“CalRecycle may need to consider new methods that require specific or mandatory action from local jurisdictions, the waste industry, the state, product and packaging manufacturers, and others, to increase the diversion of material from landfills and convert the material into new products,” according to the report.

For CalRecycle’s part, it is pointing to expanding organic waste recycling infrastructure and instituting mandatory packaging reform as ways that it can move the needle and achieve a 75 percent recycling goal. Rising mandates on commercial recycling could also drive improvements in the statewide rate.

According to a statement from CalRecycle:

“On the organics front, CalRecycle just awarded $24 million in California Climate Investment grants to projects that will transform organic waste (roughly 40 percent of California’s waste stream) into renewable energy and compost. This highlights the nexus of benefits spanning resource and water conservation, greenhouse gas reductions, job creation and expanding local markets for secondary materials.

Packaging waste accounts for about one-fourth of the state’s annual disposal stream and CalRecycle continues to work with stakeholders on a comprehensive, mandatory policy model to achieve better front- and back-end solutions.

The goals we establish for better sustainability are important and so too are the benefits we see from the pursuit of those goals. CalRecycle remains confident the state’s progressive recycling and waste reduction efforts will provide long-term benefits to Californians, our environment, and our economy.”

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