Urgent Bottle Bill Fix Needed to Address Recycling Center Closures

Hundreds of recycling locations have closed in the last 14 months due to a drop in commodity scrap values, and a subsequent failure of the Bottle Bill's ‘Processing Payment’ mechanism to offset that drop in value as promised by statute.  

As a result: 

•    California’s recycling infrastructure is losing $1.25 million per month in reduced payments
•    As a direct result of these reduced payments, 493 recycling locations have closed.
•    Overall container recycling rates have fallen below 80% for the first time since 2008
•    Rural areas have been particularly hard hit, with some areas of the state now having little or no practical redemption opportunity.  

Closed centers have been replaced with pseudo-redemption at hundreds of retail locations, which has proven to be ineffectual, costly and inconvenient (for both consumers and  grocery stores).

CalRecycle data shows that recycling levels have dropped across the state, with especially significant drops in Northern California, and consumers are foregoing as much as $335,000 per month unredeemed deposit (California Refund Value or “CRV”) compared to 2015.

A Two-Part (Short-term/Long-term) Legislative Solution is Needed

•    A short term, temporary urgency bill is needed to address the flawed payment shortfall at the root of the recycling center closures.
•    A second legislative measure or budget proposal should be pursued to update program priorities identified in the Governor’s Budget proposal

We believe elements of the Urgency fix should include: 

1)    Return the Recycling Cost basis for Processing Payments to 2015 levels and adjust processing payments retroactive to January 1, potentially increasing payments to recyclers by $17.9 million in 2017.
2)    Authorize CalRecycle to offer Handling Fees to any recycler willing to set up business anywhere (mobile or stationary) within a currently unserved zone. 
3)    Temporarily suspend costly enforcement efforts on beverage dealers in recently unserved zones, redirecting staff and resources to recruiting and siting viable recycling center operators in unserved zones.

Without these urgent amendments, centers will remain closed, rates will continue to fall, consumer frustration will grow, and efforts to find a ‘comprehensive fix’ will continue to be undermined by a compromised infrastructure.

If you want to help support this effort or get updates, please email us at : info@cawrecycles.org

CA District Attorneys Reach A $935,000 Settlement With Walmart Over Misleading Greenwashing Claims

Sacramento - The Alameda County District Attorney, along with 22 other District Attorneys, announced today that they have reached a settlement with Walmart and its subsidiaries regarding the sale of illegally labeled products that claim to be degradable. The settlement requires Walmart to pay nearly $1 million, the largest fine issued to-date for the sale of products that make misleading environmental claims. A press release from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is attached.

In 2011, Californians Against Waste sponsored legislation (SB 567, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier) which prohibited the use of the terms “degradable,” “biodegradable,” and “decomposable,” among others, from being used on any plastic products. Products may only be labeled with the terms "compostable," "home compostable," or "marine degradable" if they meet strict international standards.

Teresa Bui, Senior Analyst for Californians Against Waste, issued the following statement:

"We commend the state's District Attorneys for enforcing California's nation-leading consumer protection laws. This action will keep consumers from being deceived by the false and misleading degradability claims that have unfortunately become all too common on plastic cutlery, takeout food packaging, bags, and other plastic products.

Consumers are paying more for products that don't perform any different than traditional plastics when they are disposed, and, in fact, are considered a contaminant in both recycling and composting programs. This is especially egregious because the products with misleading claims compete with products that are truly compostable or are made with recycled content, and the prevalence of these deceptive claims undercuts consumer confidence in all sustainable products."

Governor Releases Budget, Touch on Bottle Bill

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has just released his proposed 2017-18 state budget today, which includes directions for a CA Bottle Bill Program reform: 

Beverage Container Recycling Program Reform
Combatting climate change requires strategies to reduce the amount of landfilled waste and increase recycling for multiple types of materials. Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions by lessening the need for natural resource extraction, saving energy in the manufacturing of new products and minimizing landfill emissions.

Over the past 30 years, the Beverage Container Recycling Program, which is  administered by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), has raised consumer awareness of the environmental impacts of littering and the benefits of recycling single use beverage containers. However, the program faces significant challenges, prompted by changes in consumer products and behavior, developments in recycling systems, and fluctuations in the global commodities market.

To maximize the environmental and economic benefits of recycling beverage containers, the program requires comprehensive reform that aligns with the state’s climate change goals, the state’s 75 percent waste diversion goal, and fiscal sustainability based on the following principles:

  • Improving Recycling and Remanufacturing—The program has been successful in its initial goal of reducing litter by providing recycling collection opportunities for consumers. However, collection does not ensure that a product is recycled into a new commodity. Future investments should be focused on creating clean, recyclable streams of material, which will improve the recycling and remanufacturing segments of the current system. 
  • Sharing Responsibility— Historically, the consumer has shouldered most of the financial burden to sustain the program. Program responsibilities and financing should be rebalanced among all program participants
  • Enhancing Adaptability and Sustainability— Increases in the recycling rate have resulted in a structural deficit in the Beverage Container Recycling Fund. In addition, the program does not respond quickly to fluctuations in the marketplace.

The program must be both nimble and fiscally sustainable. The Administration is committed to collaborating with stakeholders on a comprehensive reform package. To that end, CalRecycle proposes a policy framework that outlines key components of reform.

View CalRecycle's Policy Framework proposal to update the Bottle Bill Program. 

A Map of America's Landfills... All of Them

One would think that they’d be able to tell whether or not they lived close to a landfill, right? You might be closer to one that you think. This interactive map shows just how close you are to active and inactive landfills in your area. 

Click the image to go to the interactive map

Click the image to go to the interactive map

Many of them have closed and have been converted to parks or inconspicuous grassy hills. Though some are still open and actively accepting trash, and after looking at this map you might get a better idea of where your landfill waste goes.

Looking at California on this map it looks absolutely covered in landfills, this is especially true in the Los Angeles area. Considering that the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day it’s astonishing to think that there are only about 2,000 active landfills in the entire country. Although 4.4 pounds may not sound like a lot, think about how many pounds of trash that equates to per year, about 1,606 pounds. Now think about your entire household creating that amount of waste every year, and the entire country. The U.S. creates 254 million tons of waste per year, and unless we start dramatically decreasing that amount we may very well run out of landfill space.

This is what makes recycling so crucial to our success. In recent years, Americans have continued to increase the amount waste that is recycled instead of landfilled, but at the same time we’re increasing the total amount of trash we generate. With all of the new packaging materials that products are sold in, recyclers are having a hard time keeping up.

When you reduce the amount of waste you generate and when you support Californians Against Waste, you make a huge difference. The more others see you doing things like bringing your own reusable bag or cup and composting your food scraps, the more they’re inspired to try living less wasteful. Supporting CAW and calling your legislators to support legislation that we sponsor helps to make California a more recycling friendly state. 

Use Less, Recycle More

With the holiday season coming to an end and all of the post-Christmas trash being wheeled out in curbside bins, now is the time to evaluate the waste that you created and to begin planning how you can reduce your own waste in the New Year.

There’s a reason for the order of the phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’. Reducing waste is ideal because using less stuff means less pollution. Reusing products reduces the item’s greenhouse gas footprint, reduces the amount of waste going to landfills, eliminates the need to reprocess materials, and it saves you money! 

When you’ve reduced and reused as much as you can but still end up with extra materials, it’s now time to turn to recycling. Keep in mind, there are some products that claim to be recyclable but can’t go into your curbside recycling bin, so be wary of those problem products and always check what types of materials your city accepts for recycling.

Here is a quick recycling guide for common holiday waste that may be piling up at your house:

  • Cardboard: Curbside recycling programs accept flattened corrugated cardboard - just be sure to break down cardboard boxes.
  • Packing materials: Many shipping stores accept packing peanuts, rigid foam packing, bubble wrap and other packing materials for reuse. Call your local store to ask whether it takes the materials.
  • Christmas Lights: If your old holiday lights no longer work first try repairing, but if all else fails be sure to recycle them. If your community doesn't have a seasonal recycling program, you can always mail them in with no recycling fee.
  • Ornaments and decorations: Holiday decorations can be reused for years. However, if you grow tired of the decorations, donate them to thrift stores or post them for free on websites like FreecycleNextdoor, or craigslist. Make sure the decorations are in decent condition.
  • Christmas trees: Most communities have Christmas tree pick up or drop off services for residents, if you can’t find any information call your city’s recycling/ solid waste department. If you have a green bin for yard waste, cut your tree into pieces that fit in the bin. Check out the National Christmas Tree Association for other ideas.
  • For all other materials: Use Earth911.com to search for recycling options near you.

Thank you for your support this year. We hope you’ll continue supporting us into the new-year as we enter a new legislative session with many important waste and recycling solutions that we’ll be introducing in the first couple months of 2017. Stay tuned for updates on new legislation!



Samsung Recall: A Massive Waste of Resources

2.5 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones have been globally recalled due to instances of batteries exploding, resulting in a major loss in rare earth minerals and a mountain of e-waste. This is the second recall for this phone model, the first recall resulted in replacement phones. When the replacement phones were also found to also catch fire, Samsung asked customers to shut off their phones and return them altogether. The fact is that not all of these phones will make it back to Samsung for recycling and even if they do a large percentage of the materials that make up these devices can’t be recovered.

Source: Motherboard.vice.com

Source: Motherboard.vice.com

The bulk of the waste caused by these defective batteries could have been prevented if Samsung hadn’t designed the phone batteries to be glued in. If the phones would have been manufactured with easily removable batteries, the solution could have been as easy as mailing Galaxy Note 7 users a new, less explosive, battery. Instead we are left with 2.5 million, practically new, phones that can no longer be used.

The average smartphone, which weighs less than a pound, requires about 165 pounds of raw mined materials according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on the other hand, was one of the largest and most advanced smartphones and required close to 500 pounds of raw minerals. This phone contained about 50 different elements, less than 25% of which are recoverable in the recycling process. The planet’s reserves of rare earth minerals used in electronics are quickly diminishing, and it’s becoming more obvious that we need to drastically change the way we manufacture electronics in order to make products more easily repairable and recyclable.

This event was an environmental tragedy and we hope all smartphone manufacturers will learn from this and make their products with repair and recycling in mind. 

Read more about California's existing e-waste laws

Keeping E-Waste Out of Landfills One Bill at a Time

Remember those old bulky TV’s? Just because they have largely been replaced by flat panel and LCD television doesn’t mean they’ve all disappeared. Many are still stored in the attic, guest bedroom, gathering dust until they make their way to an e-waste recycler.

For the last few years  in California the only paths for recycling the glass that comes with old bulky Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) TVs and monitors are lead smelting, glass-to-glass recycling (manufacturing more CRT devices), or hazardous waste landfills. Many e-waste recyclers in California have been resorting to disposal ever since the world’s only CRT glass-to-glass recycling operation in India has shut down and reopened, leaving many concerned with their reliability. Lead smelting is only an option for a small volume of CRT glass due to smelting’s low capacity. According to a state report, 21.8 million pounds of CRT glass handled in California has been disposed of since January 1st, 2016 instead of being recycled.

That is unfortunate because a large chunk of CRT glass (known as CRT panel glass) is recyclable.

Not only is this material not being recycled but e-waste recyclers are either stockpiling this material or paying for the disposal instead of achieving the true benefit of recycling which is replacing virgin materials. In some cases this has caused e-waste recyclers to go out of business. When an e-waste recycler shuts down, it not only affects the employees of that business but also the nearby residents who rely on that recycler to take care of their community’s e-waste.

A CAW-sponsored bill, AB 1419 by Assemblymember Susan Eggman, recently signed into law by Governor Brown will bring new recycling opportunities for panel glass, which is the largest portion of CRT devices. This bill allows for specified end-uses of panel glass, after it’s been cleaned and processed, for use in new products such as tiles. Keeping electronic waste out of landfills allows valuable resources to continue circulating in the economy, lessening the need to mine or manufacture more material. Recyclers will now have a newly allowed recycling path for CRT glass, helping to keep their businesses open and providing Californians with the essential service of e-waste recycling. 

Governor Brown Signs Bill that will Divert 75% of the State's Organic Waste From Landfills

Thanks to the ongoing support of our members and all of our supporters who took action, our efforts to help pass a monumental piece of legislation has succeeded!

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that has made California the state with the toughest reduction targets for Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in the entire nation. Short-lived Climate Pollutants, or Super Pollutants, are toxic air contaminants that pose significant environmental public risks, including premature death.

SB 1383, by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), requires the California Air Resources Board to implement the short-lived climate pollutant strategy to achieve a reduction in the statewide emissions of methane by 40 percent, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40 percent, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

Organic waste materials make up two-thirds of the state’s waste stream and when disposed of in landfills they generate methane, a Short-lived Climate Pollutant that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide. In order to achieve methane reductions SB 1383 creates the target of a 75% reduction in the disposal of organic waste from 2014 levels by 2025. This will reduce methane emissions from landfills by diverting organic waste to be better utilized as soil amendments.

Additionally, this law includes a goal to recover 20% of edible food that is currently disposed to be better utilized to feed the more than 6 million food insecure Californians. Food waste is the most prevalent item in our landfills, and nearly 2 out of every 5 lbs of food produced is never eaten. In addition to avoiding landfill methane emissions, the diversion of edible food landfills allows it to be better utilized either to feed hungry people or animals in the case of food rescue.

The methane reductions that this bill creates will provide immediate beneficial impacts to air quality, public health, and climate change.

Help us continue our work as we fight for statewide solutions to waste reduction and recycling.

This is What Leadership Looks Like!

Thanks to the hundreds of supporters who contacted their legislators and the tireless efforts of our coalition partners, the legislature stood up to the state’s entrenched business interests by passing several landmark pieces of legislation in the past week. By making this a truly historic year for waste reduction legislation, California has proven, once again, that it can boldly blaze a trail for others to follow.

Here are our top priority bills that made it to the Governor’s desk:

  • SB 1383, by Senator Ricardo Lara, will drastically cut the emissions of Short Lived Climate Pollutants, such as methane, black carbon, and F-gases. In order to reduce methane emissions from the waste sector, the bill establishes an ambitious plan to reduce the landfilling of organic waste by 75%, laying the groundwork for local governments and garbage companies to roll out curbside composting statewide! The bill also includes a goal to recover 20% of the edible food that is wasted in the state. 
  • SB 778, by Senator Ben Allen, will reduce unnecessary oil changes by requiring shops to give their customers accurate information on how often they need an oil change for their specific car. This will put an end to the outdated and wasteful myth that oil changes are required every 3,000 miles, saving consumers money and time, and reducing oil pollution at its source. 
  • AB 2530, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, requires manufacturers of plastic beverage containers to disclose to the state how much recycled content they use in their products, allowing consumers to make an informed decision about the carbon footprint of their purchases.
  • AB 1005, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, extends California’s successful Plastic Market Development program which closes the loop on plastics recycling by supporting in-state manufacturing markets and the jobs that they provide.
  • AB 1419, by Assembly Member Susan Eggman, addresses an emerging barrier to the recycling of electronic waste by opening up new allowable recycling uses for the glass that comes from old CRT monitors and TVs.
  • AB 1613 invests funds generated from the sale of cap-and-trade allowances to reduce greenhouse gases. The funding includes $40 million to CalRecycle for organic waste processing infrastructure, food waste prevention, and recycled content manufacturing, as well as $7.5 million to establish a Healthy Soils program to support carbon sequestration through compost application and other strategies.

These policies will not only prevent the pollution that results from the extraction and disposal of raw materials, but will also pay dividends in the form of public health and economic growth.By expanding composting statewide, supporting the expansion of traditional recycling, building markets for recycled materials, and reducing unnecessary motor oil waste, the California legislature reaffirmed the state’s role as the leader on waste reduction policy.

This broad range of policies reflects the balance of bold vision and pragmatic follow-through that is necessary to build a sustainable recycling economy.

However, our work is not done yet. 

We need your help to convince Governor Brown to sign these landmark recycling and waste reduction bills into law! We only have until the September 30th deadline to get his signature on all of these bills, so please let the Governor know that you support these bills today.

Contact the Governor's office on another bill

Please consider making a contribution to support our efforts to lead the country in creating a more sustainable future.

Making Statewide Composting a Reality

The legislature will be voting in the next two days on a bill that will set enforceable limits on methane emissions from landfills, dairies, and the oil-and-gas sector. Methane is a super pollutant that leads to rapid climate change, and, in the case of landfills, it is readily preventable if food scraps and yard trimmings are composted, digested, or used to feed humans or animals.

SB 1383, by Senator Ricardo Lara, directs the state’s recycling agency to adopt enforceable regulations to cut the organic waste we send to landfills by 75%, laying the groundwork for local governments and garbage companies to roll out curbside composting statewide over the next 5 years!

This landmark bill also requires that 20% of edible food be recovered for human consumption, turning the tide on the 40% of food that is never eaten.

What this means for California:

  • Organic waste recycling, composting, will be more widely available across the state

  • A significant decrease in the amount of valuable organic waste going to landfills leading to the prevention of methane emissions

  • Prevents healthy, edible food from becoming waste through food waste prevention and rescue programs, helping to feed the millions of food insecure Californians

Click here to learn more about SB 1383 (Lara)

Motor Oil and Tires and Plastic, Oh My!

Over at the CAW office we’ve been busy creating and improving California policies that will make progressive changes in the world of waste and recycling. Here are the bills that we have been working hard to get to the finish line, and they are all one step away from going to the governor’s desk.

SB 778: Motor Oil Change Intervals- Busting the 3,000 Mile Myth
Authored by Senator Allen, this bill requires all oil change shops to follow the automakers’ suggested drain interval when recommending the customer’s next oil change.
•    Why you should care: Many service shops still tell customers to come back every 3,000 miles for their next oil change, but oil technology has advanced over the last 30 years making the majority of cars capable of lasting 7,500-10,000 miles. This bill ensures all drivers receive accurate information to avoid needless oil changes, save money, and reduce oil waste. 
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Assembly floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Assemblymember and ask for their vote!



AB 1239: Tire Recycling Incentive Program
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will increase the state tire fee by no more than $1 to establish a Tire Recycling Incentive Program to provide incentives to end-users of recycled tires and manufacturers who make consumer products using recycled tires
•    Why you should care: Californians generate 42 million passenger tires every single year. Illegally dumped tires pose a significant cost to local governments and the state and the recycling rate has remained largely stagnant.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!



AB 1419: Old TV & Computer Monitor Recycling (CRT Panel Glass)
Authored by Assemblymember Eggman, this bill will create new recycling paths for Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) panel glass, which can be found in older bulky TV sets and computer monitors
•    Why you should care: New LCD and LED technology for TVs and monitors have taken over and demand for old CRT devices. E-waste recyclers currently have limited options for disposal of CRT, causing some recyclers to go out of business. 
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!


AB 2530: Reporting of Recycled Content Use in Plastic Bottles
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will require manufacturers of beverages sold in plastic bottles, subject to CRV, to report to CalRecycle the amount of post-consumer recycled plastic and virgin plastic that they used in the past year. 
•    Why you should care: The drastic drop in oil prices has lowered demand and price for California-generated recycled materials, and has many manufacturers reconsidering their commitments to using recycled content.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

AB 1005: Extend Program to Incentivize Plastic Recycling
Authored by Assemblymember Gordon, this bill will extend California’s successful Plastic Market Development (PMD) program an additional year, which encourages the use of California generated recycled beverage container material, create and maintain jobs in California, and close the loop on plastic beverage container recycling.
•    Why you should care: While the PMD program has succeeded in increasing processing and use of recycled plastic in-state, California continues to export significant quantities of plastic collected for recycling. In addition to waste diversion and job creation/retention, there are environmental benefits from using recycled material.
•    How you can help us: This bill is headed to the Senate floor for the final vote before going to the governor’s desk. Contact your Senator and ask for their vote!

                                                       Become a recycling superhero

Become a recycling superhero.  Support Californians Against Waste.

Documentaries that will change your perspective on waste

Whether you’re looking for a great documentary to watch tonight when you get home or if you’re trying to find a meaningful film to show to your club or organization, we have a great list to help you find the perfect movie! Each category of documentaries corresponds with issues that Californians Against Waste has worked on legislation, find out more about our efforts by following the links. 

Plastic Bags

Legislation: SB 270 (Padilla, De Leon, & Lara) California Plastic Bag Ban

  • Bag It: A great documentary that covers the human health impacts, ocean health impacts, and immense waste that comes from the utilization of single use disposable plastic, particularly plastic bags. 
  • The Majestic Plastic Bag: Our personal favorite, a short 4 minute mockumentary of the life of a plastic bag. A great short film to share with friends to begin the conversation about the consequences of plastic bags.  




Food Waste

Legislation: AB 2725 (Chiu) Expiration Date Standardization (inactive bill)

  • Just Eat It: An informative and shocking story about a couple who, for 6 months, lives off of food that would have otherwise been thrown away. Find out some reasons why we are throwing out so much edible food.
  • DIVE!: A look into the lives of people who live off of food from dumpsters, and it isn’t at all what you would imagine it to be. This documentary begs the question, why are grocery stores and restaurants throwing out so much good food?




E- Waste

Legislation: AB 1419 (Eggman) E-Waste: CRT Panel Glass Recycling (active bill)

  • E-Wasteland: Much of our electronic waste is still sent out of the country where the outcomes are unknown. Luckily in California our laws require electronics to at least be broken down before being shipped, in order to deter rudimentary and unsafe methods that are used to take apart electronics some countries they are exported to. In this film find out how much of the worlds e-waste is disposed of.


Plastic Waste/ Plastic Recycling


  • Plastic Paradise: Learn more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which accumulates plastic waste from three countries in a remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 
  • Plasticized: A film that brings the viewer on board a transatlantic expedition to find evidence of the human footprint even in the most remote corners of the earth. See the extent that plastic pollution in our oceans is affecting wildlife and the environment. 



Reducing Waste Going to Landfills


  • Waste Land: Follow the story of artist, Vik Muniz, who travels to Brazil to the world’s largest trash dump in order to shed light on a group of catadores—those who pick recyclables out of waste. Muniz creates images out of trash and hopes to change lives in the process.



Oil Waste

Legislation: SB 778 (Allen) Motor Oil Drain Interval (active bill)

  • Fuel: The history of the U.S. auto and petroleum industries, the exploration of biofuel alternatives, and interviews with policy makers, educators, and celebrity activists, including Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson.

Pushing for New Recycling Solutions for CRT Glass

As LED and LCD television and computer screens continue to take over the world, old fashioned Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) devices (those bulky old TVs and computer monitors) are getting thrown out in record numbers. 

The good news is that a large chunk of CRT glass (known as CRT panel glass) is recyclable, while a smaller portion contains lead (known as CRT funnel glass) and has limited end-use options. However, state regulations that govern CRT panel glass recycling have not kept up with the changing tide of recycling options. This has left recyclers with two options: stockpile or landfill. 

This is troubling because both stockpiling and landfilling come with unwanted environmental consequences. 

We're sponsoring AB 1419 (Eggman) which will create a recycling framework for CRT panel glass. This glass has been processed and rendered harmless for most end-use options. This bill clearly differentiates which recycling markets are appropriate for this material. 

Email your legislator letting them know you support AB 1419. 

California Recycling Levels Fall Below 50% for First Time in Years

California’s overall recycling rate fell to 47 percent in 2015, below the 50 percent or better rates achieved since 2010, and far short of the 75 percent goal set by the legislature for 2020.

The newly-released data from California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) shows that disposal amounts increased by 2 million tons in 2015 compared to 2014, resulting in more waste, higher costs and an additional 200,000 tons of direct greenhouse gas emissions.

“At a time when Governor Brown and State Policy Makers are receiving deserved recognition for the adoption of many Nation-leading policies to reduce pollution and protect the environment, the downturn in the State’s recycling efforts stands out as an embarrassing blemish,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste.

Contributing to the recycling drop are low commodity prices, closed recycling centers and cheap disposal alternatives. The low commodity prices for paper, plastics and metals are driven by low oil prices, which in turn makes processing and producing virgin materials from natural resources appear to be cheaper.

Low commodity prices have resulted in the closure of more than 662 recycling centers in California over the last 12 months, with potentially hundreds more closing after July 1, unless urgency legislation is enacted to restore recycler reimbursements to 2015 levels.  

In addition to low commodity prices, recyclers and composter must also compete with artificially low priced disposal options that fail to incorporate their true environmental and regulatory costs.

While new policies have been adopted in an effort to increase recycling (including requirements for businesses to recycle and compost), sporadic enforcement, under investment and slow implementation have undermined program effectiveness and failed to offset increased consumer consumption of disposables.

“It’s been more than a quarter century since California policy makers committed to cutting waste disposal in half, and for most of that period consumer support, manufacturer responsibility, and targeted investment all contributed to achieve 50 percent or better recycling levels,” said Murray.

“But increased fracking and continued taxpayer subsidies for non-renewables and cheap disposal have created an uneven playing field for market-based recycling and composting efforts,” said Murray.

“California’s recycling future is at a crossroads. Greater attention and investment, and updated regulatory scheme is needed to ensure that the California does not backslide on the great environmental and economic strides that have been made to conserve and recycle finite resources.

“It is time for Governor Brown and the legislature to come together to develop a framework that puts California back on the path to sustainable materials management. We have over a quarter century of experience to help us identify which policies and programs have proven successful in the past and should be replicated or expanded.

“We need to ensure that that the economic incentives and regulatory requirements support the growth of recycling, composting, and recycled material-based manufacturing or suffer the consequences increased disposal and taxpayer costs, and a degraded environment.”

The 3,000-Mile Oil Change Con

How some oil change shops drain you of money and pollute the environment.

Your car probably doesn’t need an oil change every 3,000 miles. Or 4,000 miles. Or 5,000 miles. In fact, the majority of car makers now suggest oil changes at 7,500 or 10,000 miles. 

Then why does that little sticker in your window tell you to return in 3,000 miles?

To make oil change shops money. While some oil change shops have kept up with technology and follow the car maker's recommendations, others fall back to the old 3,000-mile rule.

According to an Edmunds.com report on the issue, oil change shops advocate for 3,000-mile oil changes to drum up extra business because more frequent oil changes lead customers to buy more products and services from oil change shops.

But this dirty business practice isn’t just bad for your wallet; it’s also bad for the environment. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles instead of every 7,500 miles not only wastes you a lot of money, but you also pour perfectly good oil down the drain, a lot of which ends up polluting the environment. The damage both financially and environmentally is pretty stark. Here are the numbers over a 5-year period:

Oil change every 3,000 miles

22 oil changes/5 years

$1540 worth of oil changes

132 quarts of oil used and thrown out

Oil change every 7,500 miles

9 oil changes in 5 years

$630 spent on oil changes

54 quarts of oil used and thrown out

According to CalRecycle, used motor oil is one of the largest hazardous waste problems in the state. Motor oil improperly disposed of presents a huge environmental problem because it is insoluble and contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Illegally dumped used motor oil makes its way into lakes, streams, and oceans via storm water systems. To further hit the point home and explain just how toxic used motor oil is, consider this: one gallon of used motor oil can foul the taste of 1 million gallons of water. Reducing the consumption of new motor oil, and cutting in half the amount of used motor oil dumped down our drains will have a major benefit to our state’s environment. 

We're sponsoring SB 778, which will require oil change shops to use car maker recommendations when they tell you when to get your oil changed next, not just a low number so they can drum up more business. Please write a short two or three sentence email to your Assemblymember telling them you support SB 778 (you can find out who your assemblymember is and their contact info here).

Check out this story from ABC 7 in San Francisco about the bill. 


The Downside To Low Oil Prices

AB 1005 (Gordon) and AB 2530 (Gordon) aim to incentivize in-state plastic recycling. AB 1005 will extend the Plastic Market Development program that supports in-state recyclers that process empty plastic beverage containers. AB 2530 will require plastic beverage containers to be labeled with their recycled content.

Two years ago, a barrel of crude oil cost over $100. Today it hovers in the mid-$30 range. While this break has been great for many Americans, the drop in crude oil prices comes with a drastic environmental cost: More plastic is produced and less in recycled.

This has left our recycling industry struggling to stay afloat.

Plastic is a petroleum-based product, and as oil prices fall, plastic productions costs fall as well. With low oil prices, product manufacturers (think Pepsi, Coca-Cola) can buy newly produced plastic at a lower cost than recycled plastic because the recycling process raises the price.

As a result, recyclers all across the country are suffering the effects of these low oil prices.  David Steiner, the CEO of Waste Management, the largest recycler in North America, recently said in an interview on CNBC, "When you look at our recycling business over the last three years when we really saw the downturn, it sort of fluctuated from slightly profitable to slightly unprofitable." Mr. Steiner says that Waste Management went from a profit margin of about 8% to less than 1%. 

To make matters worse, in California, the plastic we collect for recycling is mostly shipped overseas to China and other countries even though we have many in-state companies capable of recycling plastic. Why aren't these companies recycling our plastic? The market doesn't reward in-state plastic recycling.

To incentivize in-state recycling and reduce new plastic production, Californians Against Waste is pushing two bills through the legislature. The first, AB 1005 (Gordon), will extend the Plastic Market Development program that gives in-state recyclers money to recycle empty plastic beverage containers. Currently, only 50% on plastic collected in California is recycled in-state. The rest is shipped to China and other countries.

Second, AB 2530(Gordon), will require plastic beverage containers to be labeled with their recycling content. This will incentivize beverage companies to invest and buy recycled plastic content.  

California consumers buy green and environmentally minded products all the time, and these two bills will reward companies that go green and invest in recycling.