After more than a decade of infrastructure and effort, early years of doubt and nay saying and a seismic shift in public opinion, California now diverts 52 percent of the 76 million tons of solid municipal wastes it generates yearly. The official 52 percent statewide diversion rate meets a legislatively imposed mandate and places the state at the forefront of national efforts to reduce and recycle our trash.
Meeting at the Puente Hills Landfill Materials Recovery Facility in the City of Whittier, the California Integrated Waste Management Board announced that the goal first set forth in the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 has been reached, reversing a time when residents and workplaces routinely landfilled 90 percent of their garbage.
“I am proud of how California hasonce again shown the nation what can be done through perseverance and ingenuity,” said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown. “Achieving this goal required a long-term commitment from all sectors of private and public enterprises. I deeply appreciate what has been accomplished.”
Calculated through a series of comprehensive standards used by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the new rate reflects the impact of population and economic growth during the year. The Board reviews waste generation and disposal tonnages and annual reports submitted to the State by hundreds of cities, counties and regional waste management compacts. In addition, waste tonnages are calculated based on landfill disposal fees collected by the State Board of Equalization and paid to the Waste Board. The Waste Board receives approximately $1.40 for every ton of waste disposed in California landfills.
The Act required individual cities and counties to cut their disposal rates in half, but left the mechanics for doing so largely up to each jurisdiction, in light of their individual needs and available resources. The Board provided State sweeping oversight, as well as technical guidance and financial assistance on programs to increase waste diversion.
When it comes to disposal tonnages, the Puente Hills Landfill is the largest in the state. In 2005, it received more than 3.9 million tons of garbage. Overall, the facility encompasses more than 1,300 acres, of which 433 acres are used for disposal. The landfill is permitted to receive up to 13,200 tons of agricultural, municipal, construction and demolition, industrial, biosolids, tires and other waste daily.
The state’s landmark Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 charged the Board with implementing far-reaching provisions and moving cities and counties-and ultimately the state, itself-to higher waste diversion levels. In 1990, California diverted just 10 percent of its waste stream, causing consternation in some circles as to the remaining landfill capacity needed to meet disposal requirements.
Today, California views the folly of throwing so much away in reminisce. Nearly 500 cities, counties and regional waste management compacts around the state contribute to a multi-million dollar infrastructure of waste handling options for residents and businesses alike. Curbside waste pickup services, recycling bins, waste sorting facilities, green waste composting, used oil collection centers, hundreds of permitted and active landfills, household hazardous waste amnesty days or centers, recycled content procurement practices, broadcast and written public education campaigns, electronic waste stewardship, waste tire tracking manifests, “green” buildings, public recognition awards and myriad other programs abound, routing tons of salvageable materials to innovative markets that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
The outcome is a statewide municipal waste diversion record, a blossoming recycling-oriented economy and the creation and expansion of robust markets for recyclable materials that leads the nation by example. In California, waste recycling and management ranks on a scale comparable to the state’s vaunted entertainment industry in terms of produced yearly revenue and is responsible for the creation of thousands of jobs.
By reducing the trash thrown away and recycling it or reusing it, California has created a mainstream industry of statewide importance comprised of 5,300 establishments. Recycling now accounts for 85,000 jobs, generates $4 billion in salaries and wages and produces $10 billion worth of goods and services annually.
The environmental impacts of recycling are astounding. Each year recycling saves enough energy to power 1.4 million California homes and reduces water pollution by 27,047 tons. Furthermore, each year recycling saves 14 million trees and helps to reduce air pollution by 165,142 tons. All ofthese efforts are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to taking 3.8 million passenger cars off the highway.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board is the State’s leading authority on recycling and waste reduction. It promotes a zero waste California in partnership with local government, industry, and the public. This means reducing waste whenever possible, promoting the management of all materials to their highest and best use, and protecting public health and safety and the environment.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board is one of six boards, departments, and offices within the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).
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