California is implementing some of most ambitious recycling and composting policies in the country, and today Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 199, a CAW-sponsored bill that creates a sales tax exemption on equipment that businesses can use to help the state reach its recycling goals.
“With the proper tools, Californians can show the world how an economy can become more efficient and sustainable and reinvest in its manufacturing base,” said AB 199 author Assembly Member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton). “Instead of landfilling or exporting these valuable used materials, we can create finished products, creating revenues and quality jobs in the process.”
“Californians are leaders when it comes to recycling, and Assembly Member Eggman’s legislation will help us put these valuable materials to better use in our economy instead of shipping them overseas,” said Nick Lapis, Legislative Coordinator for Californians Against Waste. “At the same time, we can reduce the amount of raw materials we have to pay to extract from around the globe, a process that is not only unsustainable but also extremely harmful to our environment and climate.”
AB 199 creates a sales-and-use tax exemption on purchases of equipment used for recycling and composting, as well as equipment that processes recycled materials. Businesses may apply for the exemption with the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA), which provides similar exemptions for sustainable energy and transportation purchases with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As California strives to achieve its ambitious recycling goal (AB 341, Chesbro, 2011) of recycling 75 percent of the solid waste it generates by 2020, an estimated 22 million tons will have to be recycled or composted instead of being sent to a landfill. Additionally, a new law (AB 1826, Chesbro, 2014) set to take effect next year will require restaurants, grocery stores, apartments and other commercial generators of organic waste to contract to have to that waste composted or anaerobically digested, increasing the need for equipment to handle this new material.
CAEATFA is authorized to approve up to $100 million in sales tax exemptions per year. However, despite approving almost every exemption application, it has never granted more than $82 million per year in exemptions since the initial exemptions were first created through legislation in 2010.
Recycling and composting are extremely effective methods of reducing greenhouse gases; recycling reduces the need for carbon-intensive virgin resource extraction, while composting prevents organic waste from ending up buried in landfills, where anaerobic bacteria feed on it and release methane into the atmosphere. Additionally, research shows that applying finished compost to drought-stricken land can help soil generate grasses capable of absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
According to California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, CalRecycle, every year the state exports 20 million tons of recyclables that are worth nearly $8 billion. They estimate that meeting the state’s recycling goals with in-state infrastructure could generate an additional 110,000 jobs, on top of the existing 125,000 people employed in recycling.
Furthermore, CalRecycle reports that, for every ton of materials that gets recycled instead of being disposed, California’s 5300 recycling establishments will pay an additional $101 in salaries, produce $275 more in goods and services, and generate $135 more in sales.