Jun 25 - Recycling Continues, But Waste Continues to Pile Up

California has launched major recycling programs and goals in the past two decades, most stemming from the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 that required local agencies to divert 50% of solid waste by 2000. Douglas Fischer reports at Insidebayarea.com that the state's recycling has dropped in recent years, after highs in the early 2000s reaching over the 50% mark.

A San Francisco waste hauler grinds up construction and demolition materials to feed a co-generation plant.

An East Bay water utility tosses chicken droppings and table scraps into a digester to produce methane.

Unused house paint heads south to a Los Angeles cement plant to be used as a binding ingredient.

Increasingly, our trash lives on in ways we never suspected. But not every community is taking such an aggressive — and expensive — tack. Even in the progressive Bay Area, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties lag behind Alameda County, which in turn is a distant second to San Francisco.

After peaking early in the decade, recycling efforts in cities throughout the region have slipped. Union City and Oakland, for instance, both peaked above 50 percent in 2000 but were mired at or below 40 percent as of 2004, the latest year available from the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Daly City peaked at 38 percent in 2001 but had dropped to 24 percent two years later.

The complete article continues to note that our society's affinity for packaging has led to the growing landfills in the state as our garbage generation continues to exceed our ability to recycle it. According to the U.S. EPA in the article, an individual on average generates 4.5 pounds of trash per day.

CAW continues to work on reducing waste and helping California continue towards its goals of reaching 50% diversion through various legislation, including AB 2206 (Montañez), which would bring recycling opportunities to residents of multi-family dwellings and apartments and AB 2449 (Levine), which would require California grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic bags, as well as sell reusable bags.

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