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California Recycling Law - Assembly Bill (AB) 341

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California Recycling Law
Assembly Bill (AB) 341

By Sarah Amador-Rusnak

Effective July 1, 2012, Assembly Bill (AB) 341 requires all California businesses generating four or more cubic yards each week of commercial solid waste to recycle. That means cruise ships, municipal and military facilities, multi-family dwellings, schools, school districts, community colleges, universities, airports and strip malls.

By signing Assembly Bill (AB) 341, Governor Jerry Brown set a statewide goal of 75% disposal reduction by the year 2020. Part of the Global Warming Solutions Act AB 32, the new recycle bill has been referred to as the one of the most ambitious bills in the country. Florida is the only other state with a goal of 75% waste diversion rate by 2020.

CalRecycle, the agency in charge of ensuring that California meets its recycling goals, shows that California already diverts 65% of its waste stream.

Even so, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that about 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable. Every hour, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles. Every year, more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills. Every year, the commercial sector and multi-family dwellings send 15 million tons of recyclables to landfills. Less than 10% of the commercial sector recycles.

CalRecycle estimates 470,000 businesses and multi-family complexes of five units or more will have to take specific actions to comply with the regulations.

Since February of 2012, Sonoma County Water Management Agency has sent representatives to canvass our towns and cities about the new law. Representatives distributed free recycling literature printed on recycled paper, available in Spanish and English, and held site interviews with a thousand businesses.

According to Waste Management Specialist Patrick Carter of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, affordable hotels and multi-dwelling family units will need the most support in complying with the recycling law. In order to help them, the agency will provide site visits, distribute literature and offer internal recycling bins where funding allows.

Here is what is new to the recycling world:

Soda bottles: The cap can stay on! (Even glass or metal tin caps.)

Plastic bags: Just take one of your clear plastic bags, stuff the rest of the plastic bags inside and knot the top.

Rigid plastic: Deciding what to do with a broken toy or laundry basket? Recycle it!

Vegetative food waste, or compost, is also accepted. For most of Sonoma county residents, the yard debris cart can double as a compost bin. “Where service is available, the green bin is included,” Carter explained. “If the customer does not have a green bin, they can call their hauler to request it.”

Using a veggie bin can greatly reduce the amount of material sent to landfills and production of greenhouse gases. Mulches and compost collected are used to rebuild Sonoma County soils, conserve water and protect topsoil from erosion.

“The compost produced from our yard debris bins in Sonoma County is taken to the Central Compost Site, operated by Sonoma Compost Company. Their composts are listed under OMRI (Organics Materials Review Institute) and the CA Department of Food and Agriculture’s organics program,” Carter said.

Although the new AB 341 law does not provide a way to enforce recycling compliance, businesses that do not comply will be reported to the state. Communities can also implement their own commercial recycling ordinances. Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Chula Visa have already done so.

Responsible for spearheading AB 341, Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro claims that California’s commitment to recycling has already created 120,000 jobs and this new law is expected to create 60,000 more jobs.