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California's Waste Diversion Goals

Solid waste diversion rates for 2006 and priorities for 2007

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California's Waste Diversion Goals Hit a Milestone Due to Robust Market for Recycled Materials/Products

June 12, 2007

California Exceeds Environmental Milestone: The state's 54 percent waste diversion goal was achieved.

Keep up the good work California! So says Margo Reid Brown, Chair of the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

With the efforts of California residents, businesses and local governments progress continues to be made in diverting waste from landfills through reuse, recycling and composting.

The statewide diversion rate estimate for 2006 is 54 percent, 2 percentage points higher than the estimate for 2005. The official 50 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.

"I am proud of how California has once again shown the state and nation what can be done through perseverance and ingenuity," said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown. "Reaching the 54 percent goal required a strong commitment from all sectors of private and public enterprises. I am encouraged at their efforts toward continued sustainability."

Waste Diversion Rates

For 2006, California generated over 92.2 million tons of solid municipal wastes, disposed of about 42.2 million tons and diverted an estimated 50.1 million tons.

Since waste is generated by a wide variety of activities, estimating and understanding diversion rates can be challenging. A change in methodology makes 2005 and 2006 statewide diversion rates not directly comparable to prior year diversion rate estimates.

The Board-approved Adjustment Method (AM) uses change in population, employment, and inflation-adjusted taxable sales to estimate that 92.2 million tons were generated in 2006. This is 4 million tons higher than the Board's statewide generation estimate for 2005. The 2006 diversion rate is calculated through a series of comprehensive standards used by the California Integrated Waste Management Board and reflects the impact of population and economic growth during the year. The impacts of demographic and economic change on the waste stream must be considered when calculating diversion rates. By incorporating these demographic factors, the AM allows comparisons between years regardless of the change in population and economics.

Statewide Sustainability Program Reporting

Each year the Board's Sustainability Program reports on statewide progress toward diversion goals of the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989. This Act 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.

Municipalities Mandated to Cut Disposal Rates in Half

Individual cities and counties are required by the Act 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.

Managing Construction Waste

In response to increased construction activity, the Board and jurisdictions have significantly increased efforts to divert construction materials. New construction and demolition diversion programs have been implemented and more are in the planning stage. More green waste and single-stream recyclables diversion programs may also have contributed to this increase in diversion.

Solutions Come from Robust Markets for Recycled Materials

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.

Environmental Impacts of Recycling Are Astounding!

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 of these 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 reducing waste whenever possible, managing 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).

Jamie Cameron-Harley | Jon Myers
(916) 341-6300
E-mail the Public Affairs Office

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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