Waste Management: Big Step for CA

The growth of recycling and composting systems is often stunted by a catch-22: The supply is dependent on the demand, and the demand is dependent on the supply. It works like this: the infrastructure investment needed to sort and reprocess recyclables and organics is dependent on a steady supply of these materials. But haulers can’t create that supply by initiating pick-up of recyclables or organic waste until they have some place to take them to be sorted and reprocessed. The State of California passed a resource recovery mandate, known as AB 341, in 2011 that addresses both sides of this conundrum. The mandate asks cities and counties to encourage investment in sorting and reprocessing infrastructure -- the demand -- with the goal of reaching 75% diversion by 2020. The law also requires all businesses, including some multi-family residential buildings, that generate more than four cubic yards of waste per week to sign up for the recycling services from a local service provider. This provision took effect  on July 1 and ensures a supply of materials that, instead of going to a landfill, can be made into new products.

Add to that a separate state effort creating several billion dollars of incentives to build and operate new local plastic reprocessing facilities, and you have a strategy that will meet environmental goals and create employment. Californians Against Waste estimates that this policy combination will add a net of 60,000 jobs in California. We applaud the California State legislature for passing this important law, and the many businesses who have worked hard to meet the July 1 deadline. We hope that this will set a benchmark for other states in the U.S. -- and further demonstrate that sustainability leads to prosperity.