California governor signs law encouraging dual-stream recycling

Dive Brief:

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 815, legislation that amends a portion of the Public Resources Code related to solid waste management to encourage — but doesn’t mandate — that municipalities switch from single-stream to dual-stream recycling programs.
  • The legislation requires California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to examine whether cities, states and regional authorities have implemented source-separated recycling programs, meaning fiber is separated from containers and glass. However, the document clearly states that the intention is not for CalRecycle to take punitive measures against municipalities that do not transition to dual stream.
  • The law, which aims to reduce contamination through greater source separation in curbside recycling programs to improve material marketability, will take effect January 1, 2020.

Dive Insight:

Prior to its amendment with the dual-stream language, California law required each city, county or regional agency to send an annual report to CalRecycle about its waste reduction efforts. The agency was ordered to check that each jurisdiction developed source reduction, recycling and hazardous waste plans to divert 50% of all solid waste from landfill. CalRecycle then was expected to check each jurisdiction’s compliance every two to four years and had the authority to enforce the law, such as by issuing a compliance order containing recommended actions.

State Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry introduced the bill to reduce the amount of contamination in single-stream curbside programs, which are the norm throughout the state. Contamination has gained increased attention in the past couple of years, as it is a primary reason the Chinese government cites for refusing to accept foreign countries’ recyclable materials. Aguiar-Curry notes in a statement that reducing contamination could make the materials collected curbside more marketable both domestically and abroad. The goal is also to reduce the amount of recyclable material being stockpiled or disposed recently.

“When we throw all of our recyclables into the same bin, glass breaks, leftover soda spills on copy paper, and many recycled materials become too dirty to be reused … AB 815 will keep our recyclables cleaner and more marketable so they can actually be turned into new products,” Aguiar-Curry said in the statement.

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