California’s Recycling Rate Dropped to 40% in 2021, Though Organics Disposal Decreased, CalRecycle Says

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California’s statewide recycling rate declined in 2021 and Californians disposed of more trash than the previous year, according to preliminary data released by CalRecycle on Tuesday.

California generated 76.7 million tons of materials in 2021, slightly less than in 2020, according to a press release. Of that, about 46 million tons were disposed of, compared to 44.9 million tons in 2020. The state recycled 30.7 million tons in 2021, bringing the recycling rate down to 40% from 42% in 2020. The agency plans to publish its finalized annual report. report in December.

The recent passage of new recycling and waste diversion laws should help improve those numbers in the years to come, said Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of CalRecycle. in an interview on America Recycles Day. Additional funding for infrastructure and bottle bill improvements, as well as comprehensive waste reduction strategies, is also on the way, she said.

Machi Wagoner wouldn’t comment on what might have contributed to lower recycling rates in 2021, saying it would be “guesswork,” but said the state is focused on improving all aspects of the system. waste and recycling and on creating a reliable circular economy.

“It’s really important to me that we get this [disposal] reduce the number and work at all levels on organic products, recyclable products and things that are not,” she said. “We will look at what we need to do in terms of changes to our system.”

California is working toward ambitious waste reduction and recycling goals that will require state investments and programs, Wagoner said. It aims to reduce organic waste disposal 75% by 2025. Meanwhile, California’s recycling rate goal is 75%.

According to highlights CalRecycle provided from the state’s waste characterization study, Californians have recently reduced the tonnage of organics they dispose of — about 11.3 million tons in 2021, compared to nearly 13.4 million tons the last time the state conducted the study in 2018.

However, more plastic is being discarded than in 2018, according to the report. In 2021, around 5.45 million tonnes were disposed of, compared to 4.52 million in 2018.

The state passed a significant list of recycling and waste diversion laws this year that CalRecycle touted as a set of “unprecedented circular economy reforms.” This includes SB 54a bill on extended producer responsibility for packaging considered the most expensive in the country.

Lawmakers also passed several updates to the state bottle bill, including a add wine and spirits bottles, which proponents say could help increase the overall recycling rate. However, Wagoner said more needs to be done to provide places to return containers.

“Consumer frustration in some parts of the state is that they don’t have access to this program, so our goal is to have 100% access statewide,” she said. .

The state legislature recently approved $391 million over three years to expand the program. This includes things like market development strategies, subsidies for the collection and recycling of recycled glass, and funding for the installation of reverse vending machines, she said.

Wagoner said attendees at recent town hall meetings also called for more infrastructure funding and resources for beverage containers and other recycled materials, as well as organics. The waste and recycling industry will play an important role in helping the state make improvements, she said.

“We want to highlight new technologies for sorting and composting or co-digestion,” she said. “Partnerships are absolutely key and we’re really looking for the waste industry to engage in creative problem solving with the department on this.”

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