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Overview:

The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is the latest iteration in California’s 40-year quest to manage its trash through waste disposal, reduction and recycling. It promotes recycling of beverage containers, tires, used oil, computer monitors, televisions and other materials. The department regulates solid waste facilities (including landfills); provides grants and loans to local governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses; advocates and facilitates diversion through recycling, composting reuse and source reduction; and encourages the use of recyclable products. Legislation that created the department within the Natural Resources Agency in 2010 merged the duties of the California Integrated Waste Management Board and the Division of Recycling. The department manages two landmark initiatives—the Integrated Waste Management Act and the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act.

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History:

California took its first real steps toward regulating solid waste disposal in 1972 when the Legislature created the independent Solid Waste Management Board and gave it broad powers. Four years later it was given permitting and enforcement powers. The board was predominantly focused on building a system for disposing of solid waste (mostly in landfills), rather than limiting the materials being stashed, although it started limited curbside recycling in 1977.

That changed in the ‘80s—and so did the board’s name; it became the California Waste Management Board in 1982—when pressure to find safer and more environmentally sound solutions and an increasingly clearer picture of landfill limitations engendered a political battle over the future of California’s trash. A five-year plan produced by the board in 1985 touted waste-to-energy, recycling, composting and material reduction. But there was growing concern that the part-time board might not be up to the task of implementing it. It was widely perceived as being dominated by the waste-hauling industry and favoring more landfills over promoting alternatives like recycling.

Emerging interest in bottle bill concepts resulted in 1986 legislation that created a separate Division of Recycling in the Department of Conservation to house the program while a slugfest ensued in Los Angeles over the city council’s push to build the $235 million LANCER trash incinerator in a poor part of town.

Experts were predicting that the state could run out of landfill space by the mid-‘90s unless a new, more aggressive way to address waste disposal was agreed upon quickly. Potentially, new industries would be created overnight and old ones lost, and government agencies would restructure. New centers of influence would redistribute power and large amounts of money would be sloshing about.

The Legislature responded by passing a bill in 1988 that wasn’t to Governor George Deukmejian’s liking and he vetoed it. But ensuing negotiations produced a far more expansive piece of legislation and the next year AB 939—which arguably changed the culture of California to view its discards not as refuse, but as a reusable resource—became law.

When the bill was passed, California was diverting about 10% of the 40 million tons of trash being produced. The new law set 50% as the benchmark by 2000, laid out a blueprint for how to get there, and reconstituted and renamed the board the Integrated Waste Management Board in the California Environmental Protection Agency.  

The new board embraced recycling, using grants and loans to develop a recycling industry and encourage new markets for recycled goods. It also cleaned up polluted sites, regulated landfills and promoted environmentally friendly ways of handling the nastiest (oil, electronic, medical, et al) waste.

The state didn’t make 50% by 2000; that took another five years. But the ubiquitous recycling bins throughout the state testified to a reshaped consciousness about recycling. The board handed out millions of dollars in grants to local governments for recycling programs and site cleanup, and instituted new programs for handling televisions and computer monitors. And it never ceased being controversial. The board itself had a reputation as being a high-paying resting place for politicians in between jobs dating back to its first days. The inaugural choice as board chairman in 1990 was Michael R. Frost, chief of staff for the soon-to-be-departed Governor Deukmejian.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed that the board be eliminated in 2005 as part of his comprehensive government reorganization plan, and four years later it was. Sort of. Many of the board’s functions were combined in 2010 with the Division of Recycling to form the Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) in the Natural Resources Agency.

The rebranded CalRecycle continues to be an object of scrutiny, and Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012 reorganization plan included a proposal to move it from the Natural Resources Agency to the California Environmental Protection Agency. The administration reasoned that, “Hazardous waste, electronic waste, used oil, used tires, and landfill permits are typically not considered ‘natural resources’ but wastes. This program is better associated with the EPA, which regulates pollutants, than with the Natural Resources Agency, which does not.”

 

Transformation of Governmental Organizations: The Case of the California Integrated Waste Management Board (Dissertation by George T. Eowan at University of Southern California) (pdf)

Governor Brown’s Reorganization Proposal (Little Hoover Commission) (pdf)

The History of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)

An Unusual Obituary: The Integrated Waste Management Board (by Evan W.R. Edgar, Capitol Weekly)

History of California Solid Waste Law, 1985-1989 (CalRecycle website)

Introducing CalRecycle (League of California Cities)

Recycling: California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (pdf)

California Beverage Container Recycling & Litter Reduction Act (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

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What it Does:

CalRecycle regulates solid waste disposal facilities, like landfills, and promotes recycling. It provides funds to clean up solid waste disposal sites; develops and promotes alternatives to the illegal disposal of used oil; develops technical standards and permit requirements for waste tire facilities; promotes reuse and recycling of electronic devices; encourages purchasing of environmentally preferable products; and promotes the development and use of new, more sustainable products and technologies that can benefit California’s economy and environment.

 

Waste Reduction

CalRecycle points out on its website that the preferred method of waste management is to not have any waste created in the first place. To that end, it promotes a reduction in unnecessary packaging, paper waste prevention, reusable transport packaging, and better product development.

 

Solid Waste Disposal

CalRecycle inherited oversight of landfills and other solid waste disposal sites from one of its predecessors, the Integrated Waste Management Board. The department relies heavily on local enforcement agents (LEA) for guaranteeing proper storage and transportation of waste, and the operation and closure of facilities, although it certifies LEA programs, reviews permits and enforces state standards.

It also finances cleanups at sites that are a threat to public health and where the responsible party cannot be located or is unwilling or unable to pay for remediation. The department’s Solid Waste Disposal and Codisposal Site Cleanup Program provides competitive grants up to $750,000 and loans to local governments.   

 

Recycling

Perhaps best known for its beverage container recycling programs—it administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, aka the Bottle Bill— the department also runs a series of programs for E-waste, food scrap, used oil/filters, waste tires and more. Beverage containers covered under the Bottle Bill are subject to California Redemption Value (CRV), which is 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces, 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger. Thanks to the CRV cash incentive, 255 billion aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage containers have been recycled since the program began in 1987. The agency also encourages buying recycled products.

 

Grants and Loans

CalRecycle provides grants and loans to help California cities, counties, businesses and organizations meet the state`s waste reduction, reuse and recycling goals. The programs cover a range of initiatives, including beverage containers, farm and ranch cleanups, household hazardous waste, local enforcement agencies, solid waste disposal and cleanup, tire cleanup and used oil cleanup.

CalRecycle offers a competitive grant program for public agencies that reuse materials.

 

Enforcement

CalRecycle has the authority to enforce the law in a range of programs. For the solid waste facility operations it oversees, the department relies heavily on local enforcement agents (LEA), although it certifies LEA programs, reviews permits and enforces state standards. Among its other responsibilities: The department can fine publishers and printers $500 if they don’t use the required amount of recycled newsprint. Manufacturers and wholesalers selling trash bags who aren’t compliant with recycled-content standards can be put on a list and barred from doing business with the state. CalRecycle can instigate fines and criminal prosecutions for violations of laws concerning the handling of recycled oil, including non-payment of sale fee and intent to defraud reporting of lubricating oil sales. The department performs inspections related to the storage and disposal of waste tires and has the power to levy fines as high as $25,000 a day for violations.     

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Where Does the Money Go:

California began funding its new recycling efforts in the 1980s through the 1986 California Beverage Container Recycling Program. By collecting money from retailers on every empty beverage container returned by customers, the department accumulates funding for grant incentive-based programs designed to encourage an increase in the recycling market. In 2009-10, 85% of the more than 21 billion containers sold in the program were recycled. 

The Beverage Container Recycling Fund, which receives and distributes this money, has historically run a surplus and in fiscal year 2006-07 had $206.2 million on hand. That year, the state pulled in $871.3 million in revenues and transfers and doled out $879.1 million in local assistance. The state had taken advantage of this surplus a few years earlier and had borrowed nearly $300 million to cover shortfalls in its General Fund over a two-year period.

In recent years, the fund’s expenditures have tended to exceed revenues as recycling rates have climbed, resulting in a lower overall fund surplus and changes in revenue-generating rates. Shortfalls are covered by the repayment of earlier loans to the General Fund. But the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected that the fund could be insolvent by 2014-15 unless corrective action is taken.

The fund took in $1.16 billion in 2011-12, 81% of total department revenues, and spent around $1.24 billion on Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction. The vast majority of the money flowing in and out of the fund (around $1 billion) is money collected from beverage distributors and then refunded to consumers.

In 2011-12, the department reported spending $46.3 million on program administration. It paid $75 million to companies processing recyclable glass and plastic and $39.8 million in handling fees to eligible supermarket, non-profit and rural recyclers. Local Conservation Corps grants totaled $19.5 million and Curbside Supplemental Payments cost $15 million. The department made $10.5 million in city/county payments and doled out $750,000 in competitive grants.

The department also operates a Used Oil Recycling Fund, a Tire Recycling Management Fund, a Solid Waste Disposal Site Cleanup Trust Fund and an Integrated Waste Management Fund to pay for different kinds of trash diversion programs.

 

Quarterly Report on Status of the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (CalRecyle website) (pdf)

Handling Fee Final Report (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

Overview of the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (Legislative Analyst’s Office) (pdf)

California Beverage Container Recycling Program History and Fund Management Options (Department of Conservation’s Division of Recycling) (pdf)

3-Year Budget (pdf)

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Controversies:

LANCER Incinerator Blocked

As the nation grappled in the ‘80s with ways to cope with the mountains of trash accumulating in its landfills, serious consideration was given to innovative waste-to-energy projects that would essentially burn garbage to produce electricity. California was slow to join the growing movement and by mid-1987 had only one operating garbage incinerator, a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, while 100 plants had been built in other states.

But the city and county had been talking about the burning alternative since 1983 and plans were on the drawing board for 23 plants across the state, including a giant incinerator in South-Central L.A. called LANCER (Los Angeles City Energy Recovery Project). The $235 million LANCER project would build one of three incinerators that local officials hoped would be burning all the city’s household garbage by the end of the century. The other two would be in the San Fernando Valley and on the tony Westside.

Incinerators were expensive, but landfills were running out of room and suburban sprawl and water contamination issues were making it harder to plan for more of them. In Los Angeles, it was estimated that all current local landfill sites would be filled by 1993. Recycling was practically non-existent.

Despite guarantees of safety and promises of job creation and neighborhood beautification, community activists were more concerned that LANCER would turn their low-income, minority neighborhoods into a toxic ashtray. Their main concern was the emission of dioxins, a highly poisonous compound found in the defoliant Agent Orange for which there was no known safe level of exposure.

The state Legislature had balked earlier in the year at participating in LANCER, and amended legislation that funded a two-year, $1 million study by the California Waste Management Board to include a moratorium on the project.

Mayor Tom Bradley indicated in June 1987 that he no longer supported the project and in August the city council effectively killed it two months later.

 

Panel Moves to Delay Lancer Incinerator (by Douglas Shuit and Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

Mounting Opposition to LANCER Pushes Waste-to-Energy Plans to the Back Burner (by Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Council Junks Lancer Trash Burner Project (by Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

 

Battle over San Diego County Landfill

Gregory Canyon in northern San Diego County has a long, turbulent history, with developers and environmentalists battling over whether it’s an appropriate place for a landfill. Proponents say it is a desperately needed facility in a region overflowing with trash and opponents say it is an ecologically sensitive site with cultural importance to a local tribe.

The proposed project is near the San Luis Rey River and the Pala Indian Reservation, south of Highway 76 and about 3.5 miles east of Interstate 15. The dump would cover more than 300 acres and is part of 1,700 acres owned by Gregory Canyon Ltd.

Voters approved the project twice, in 1994 and 2004, but it still hadn’t made it through the regulatory process and past political hurdles. The county’s Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) approved the landfill’s operating permit in May 2011 and CalRecycle, which oversees LEAs throughout the state, gave its approval shortly thereafter.

Opponents took their fight to the Legislature where Senate Bill 833 was overwhelmingly passed, prohibiting construction of a landfill within 1,000 feet of a site considered sacred to a tribe or within 1,000 feet of the San Luis Rey River or an aquifer connected to it. Either requirement would have killed the Gregory Canyon dump. 

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation in October, expressing concern about tribal claims but saying safeguards already are in place to protect the San Luis Rey River and he felt it inappropriate for the Legislature to overturn a local land-use decision.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called it, “the worst idea to hit San Diego County since a local transportation agency tried to pave over the state park at San Onofre State Beach with a six-lane highway.”

Robert Smith, chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, said, “Not only will this landfill threaten major detrimental impacts to both surface and groundwater, it will desecrate sacred Native American cultural sites.”

An internal Q&A at the Gregory Canyon Landfill website argues that the landfill will not threaten the environment because it will employ state-of-the-art landfill liners to prevent seepage, cites an Environmental Impact Report that rejects claims of significant impacts on Native American resources, and says arguments that there is no landfill shortage are twisting data affected by the economic downturn. 

The project still faces a permit process that could delay the landfill’s opening for two years, and a court battle looms.

 

A Bad Place for a Garbage Dump in Southern California (by David Nagami, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog)

Fight to Block San Diego Riverfront Landfill Continues Strong (by David Nagami, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog)

Response to NRDC Misleading and Inaccurate Statements (by Gregory Canyon Landfill News)

Assembly Approves Bill to Block Gregory Canyon Landfill (by Michael Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Governor Vetoes Bill to Stop Gregory Canyon Dump (by Gary Warth, North County Times)

 

Recycling Fraud

Recycling is big business in California and so is recycling fraud.

California charges a nickel or dime for each glass, aluminum or plastic container purchased in the state and redeems that money when the item is returned for recycling. It can add up, with a pound of aluminum cans netting trash collectors $1.57 for their labor. It can also attract fraudsters looking for a quick pay day by carting in garbage from other states.

Authorities in the state attorney general’s office announced in May 2010 that 31 people in three separate rings were arrested for collecting $3.5 million in allegedly illegal redemptions. They were charged with conspiracy, grand theft and unlawful recycling. In one case, 1.6 million pounds of cans and bottles were allegedly imported from Nevada, where they don’t have a recycling program, and brought to recycling centers in Southern California for redemption.

A few months later, another form of recycling fraud surfaced when criminal charges were filed against the owner and two managers of San Jose-based electronic waste recycler Tung Tai Group after the company submitted $1 million in “fraudulent and fictitious” reimbursement claims for more than 2 million pounds of electronic waste that they never recycled.

E-waste recyclers pick up televisions, computer monitors and other electronic waste, break them down for recycling and collect, on average, 43 cents a pound for their material.

CalRecycle auditors had contacted investigators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control in 2008 after noticing that claims submitted by Tung Tai didn’t match up with   records kept by Golden State Records and Recycling, a company that collected and transferred materials to Tung Tai.

Agents searched the Tung Tai facility and discovered two separate sets of records that indicated the company submitted claims to CalRecycle that grossly inflated the amount of pounds of recycled material eligible for reimbursement.

Out-of-state recyclables were also at the heart of complaints against Burbank Recycling, Inc. in January 2011. CalRecycle notified Burbank that it would no longer reimburse the city for its curbside recycling operation because it suspected the city’s chosen recycling operator had defrauded the state of more than $32 million.

The department refused to recertify Burbank Recycling, alleging it had brought in recyclables from out-of-state. So the city cut its ties and sought a new recycling center operator. Unfortunately, its contract with Burbank Recycling dictated that the company could select its successor and it chose Burrtec Waste Industries Inc. in November. Burrtec took over the center in January 2012 but CalRecycle had not indicated whether it would renew the certification and allow it to participate in state programs.

 

31 Arrested in $3.5 Million Recycling Fraud (by Robert Jablon, Associated Press)

Recycling Fraud Targeted in Raids (by Damian Trujillo, NBC)

California Files Charges Against E-waste Recycler’s Execs (by Grant Gross, IDG News Service)

Calif. Prosecutes First E-scrap Fraud Case (by Chrissy Kadleck, Waste & Recycling News)

2 Arrested on $1 Million Fraud Charges (South Bay News)

City Losing Out on Recycling Funds Amid Fraud Investigation (by Mark Kellam, Burbank Leader)

City Works to Smooth Recycling Center Woes (by Mark Kellam, Burbank Leader)

Burbank Recycle Center Celebrates Earth Day (by Megan O’Neil, Burbank Leader) 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

Assembly Bill 341

Until passage of Assembly Bill 341 in October 2011, California law required local governments to divert 50% of solid waste disposed of in their jurisdictions through recycling, composting and reduction.

The new law raised the bar to 75% and set 2020 as the deadline to meet the new goal. It also put in place a new commercial recycling program to be initiated in July 2012 and extending recycling requirements to multi-family residential dwellings.

One of the stated purposes of the law was to reinforce the mission of CalRecycle in light of the elimination of its predecessor, the Integrated Waste Management Board. “This bill moves the state toward even more aggressive diversion efforts that are necessary to compensate for population growth and increases in per capita generation of waste by requiring DRRR to ensure that by 2020, 75% of the solid waste generated is diverted from landfill disposal.”

 

Mandatory Commercial Recycling (CalRecycle website)

Assembly Bill 341 (California Legislative Information)

Bill Analysis (California Legislative Information)

 

Revised Electronic Waste Law

Critics of the state’s policy on recycling electronic waste, like computer monitors and televisions, complain that it doesn’t do enough to guarantee that California isn’t simply exporting its environmental hazards to foreign countries where their populations are exposed to dangerous materials.

Assembly Bill 960, introduced in February 2011, would have amended the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 to require that exporters prove to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control that e-waste it exports will be handled according to international guidelines and laws where the waste is sent.

The bill stalled in the Senate Appropriations committee in July. 

 

Assembly Bill 960 (California Legislative Information)

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Debate:

Electronic Recycling: A Wasted Effort?

California began recycling electronic waste like computer monitors and televisions after the Legislature passed the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003. Consumers pay a fee to the state when they purchase equipment covered by the law and that money is used to make payments to companies that collect and dispose of the items in a fashion that does not environmentally burden the state.

California is one of nearly two dozen states with e-waste laws, and the legislation has undoubtedly been responsible for keeping significant amounts of potentially dangerous materials—computer monitors can contain hundreds of chemicals and compounds, from mercury to flame retardants—out of state landfills where they take up a lot of space and pose a threat to groundwater sources.

But the effort has not been without its critics.

 

Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 (CalRecycle website)

Electronic Waste: More Information (CalRecycle website)

Update on California’s Covered Electronic Waste Recycling Program (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

 

It’s a Failure

Critics of efforts to recycle electronic waste start with the definition of what constitutes e-waste. About half of what many might consider e-waste isn’t covered by the law, which mostly deals with video devices. Even CalRecycle’s own website admits “There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar ‘appliances’ should be grouped into the category has not been established.

Actually, it has been established for purposes of regulating e-waste in California. According to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which enforces the law on hazardous wastes, “Many electronic wastes are not included in the Electronic Waste Recycling Act but are still considered hazardous wastes and may not be discarded in the trash. These electronic wastes are not eligible for payment.”

Devices that are covered by the Act generally include some type of video display and include: plasma televisions, portable DVD players with LCD screens, computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes and LCD-containing desktop monitors. Myriad devices, like alarm clocks, VHS players and video gaming systems, are not included in the program.

Because California is just one of about two dozen states with an e-waste program and the federal government has no overarching laws on the matter, fraud is rampant as people from other states haul their materials to the Golden State for remuneration.

“I don't think anybody could have forecast the greed that has poisoned the program,”  Bob Erie, chief executive officer of E-World Recyclers, told Tom Knudson of McClatchy Newspapers in 2011. Knudson reported that while $23 million in fraudulent e-waste claims had been rejected by the state, another $30 million probably snuck by. He also noted that the Department of Toxic Substances Control had investigated a couple dozen instances of e-waste fraud but that no firm had been fined or prosecuted.

While fraud and other criminal behavior have opened the e-waste effort to criticism, some of the legal consequences have also drawn the ire of critics. Californians export approximately 160 million to 210 million pounds of this hazardous waste to developing countries each year. Much of that goes to China. By 2020, China and South Africa e-waste is expected to increase by up to 400% compared to 2007 levels, according to a United Nations study. India was expected to see a 500% increase.

The discarded devices pose significant health threats to the people who strip them of their rare and valuable, yet toxic, materials. In one process used in China, noxious chemicals and metals, such as lead, are released when the used electronics are dunked into pits of acid and heated over coal-fueled grills. Studies have shown marked increases of dioxin, polybrominated diphenyl ether and other deadly chemicals in the environment and workers’ blood at Chinese recycling centers.   

Legislation at the state and federal level to monitor and, in some fashion, influence how these toxic materials are handled once they leave the United States has failed.

Another criticism of e-waste recycling is specific to California. It is the only state where consumers, not manufacturers and retailers, pay for the program. Among the states that have passed e-waste recycling laws, they closely parallel California’s law but take more of a producer-responsibility approach. In many of them, the manufacturer has to take back the discarded device.

 

E-Waste Recycling, Begun with Lofty Goals, Now Awash with Greed, Fraud (by Tom Knudson, McClatchy Newspapers)

What to Do About E-Waste (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Bill Would Cut Dumping of U.S. Electronic Waste in China, India (by Susanne Rust, California Watch)

Finding Loopholes In California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act (by Beth Buczynski, Care2)

Recycling—From E-Waste to Resources (Sustainable Innovation and Technology Transfer Industrial Sector Studies) (pdf)

Importing Electronics, Exporting E-Waste: Financial, Human Costs of Electronics Disposal Spread Worldwide (by Claire Veuthey, RiskMetrics Group)

E-waste Recycling is Serious Health Threat in China (by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Treehugger)

 

It’s a Success

The legislation has successfully diverted large amounts of electronic waste from landfills, while raising public consciousness about trash storage and related environmental issues. California passed the 1 billion-pound mark for the recycling of electronic waste in June 2011.

The program is largely self-supporting, paid for by consumer fees collected at the point of purchase.

Stopping exports to other countries is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. It could actually be a boon if the feds do it. “If the federal government today said, ‘Electronic scrap shall not be exported without being treated to a certain level,’ that would grow, frankly, a domestic industry,” according to Jeff Hunts, manager of the TV and monitor recycling program at CalRecycle.

 

E-Waste Law Reaches Billion-Pound Milestone (by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News)

State E-waste Program Hits 1 Billion Pounds (by Mike Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Former Directors:

Mark Leary, 2011 (acting director)

Margo Reid Brown, 2010-2011

 

Former Chairs of Integrated Waste Management Board (CalRecycle Predecessor)

Margo Reid Brown, 2006-2010

Rosario Marin, 2004-2006. Marin started out in the financial industry and worked at City National Bank in Beverly Hills from 1981-1986. She became an advocate for the mentally disabled after the birth of a son with Down Syndrome in 1985, and lobbied Sacramento politicians on their behalf. She was appointed chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Developmental Services by Governor Pete Wilson in 1992. Marin, a Republican, was elected to the Huntington Park city council in 1994 despite the city’s heavily-Democratic constituency and served seven years (one as mayor) while still in the Wilson administration. In 1996, she was appointed assistant deputy director of the state Department of Social Services. President George Bush appointed her secretary of the Treasury in 2001, a post she held until returning to California in 2004 to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara Boxer. Marin lost in the primary to Bill Jones and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from his victory after the recall of Governor Gray Davis, appointed her to the Integrated Waste Management Board where she was elected chair.   

Linda Moulton-Patterson, 2000-2004

Dan Eaton, 1999-2000

Daniel G. Pennington, 1995-1998  

Jesse R. Huff, 1993-1994

Ed Heidig, 1992-1993

Michael R. Frost, 1991-1992

 

Former Chairs of the California Waste Management Board (CalRecycle Predecessor)

John E. Gallagher, 1989-1990. Gallagher was chairman of the board in its final days before AB 939 expanded and transformed the part-time panel. Governor George Deukmejian tried appointing Gallagher in 1990 to a designated “non-profit environmental protection” slot on the newly-reconstituted board, setting off a storm of protest. Gallagher—a former Continental Can Corp. executive and one-time executive director of Industry Environmental Council, a nonprofit consortium of bottle, can, beer and soft-drink manufacturers—was environmentalists’ poster child for what was wrong with the old board. He had led industry efforts in 1982 that defeated Proposition 11, an initiative that would have forced at least nickel refunds for beverage containers. Gallagher, facing inevitable rejection, failed to show up for his confirmation hearing and the nomination was dropped.         

Sherman E. Roodzant, 1985-1988

Terry Trumball, 1979-1984

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Founded: 2010
Annual Budget: $1.4 billion (Proposed FY 2012-13)
Employees: 679
Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery
Mortensen, Caroll
Director

After splitting two decades between the Legislature and the executive branch working on  waste management and recycling issues, Caroll Mortensen was appointed director of CalRecyle by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2011.

She earned her bachelor of science degree in environmental science from California State University, Sacramento in 1992 before spending 13 years at CalRecycle’s forerunner, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). She held a variety of positions there, including four years as legislative director.

She left the board in 2005 and for the rest of the decade was a senior environmental policy consultant to the Legislature. Mortensen was chief consultant for the State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials for two years, working on issues related to hazardous waste, green chemistry, pesticides, brownfields and other related policy areas. Her boss was Northcoast Democratic Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, himself a founding board member of the CIWMB in 1990.

From 2007-2011, Mortensen served as consultant to the State Senate Committee on Environmental Quality where she analyzed legislation and provided policy guidance related to solid and hazardous waste, and air and water quality.

As CalRecycle director, Mortensen will direct implementation of AB 341, a bill authored by Chesbro and signed by Governor Brown in October 2011 that aims to create green jobs by expanding recycling to all multi-family dwellings and businesses. CalRecycle was also given a 2020 goal for getting the state to recycle 75% of its garbage. 

 

Meet the Executive Team (CalRecycle website)

CalRecycle Director Appointed (California Manufacturers & Technology Association)

Caroll Mortensen (LinkedIn)

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Press release)

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Overview:

The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is the latest iteration in California’s 40-year quest to manage its trash through waste disposal, reduction and recycling. It promotes recycling of beverage containers, tires, used oil, computer monitors, televisions and other materials. The department regulates solid waste facilities (including landfills); provides grants and loans to local governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses; advocates and facilitates diversion through recycling, composting reuse and source reduction; and encourages the use of recyclable products. Legislation that created the department within the Natural Resources Agency in 2010 merged the duties of the California Integrated Waste Management Board and the Division of Recycling. The department manages two landmark initiatives—the Integrated Waste Management Act and the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act.

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History:

California took its first real steps toward regulating solid waste disposal in 1972 when the Legislature created the independent Solid Waste Management Board and gave it broad powers. Four years later it was given permitting and enforcement powers. The board was predominantly focused on building a system for disposing of solid waste (mostly in landfills), rather than limiting the materials being stashed, although it started limited curbside recycling in 1977.

That changed in the ‘80s—and so did the board’s name; it became the California Waste Management Board in 1982—when pressure to find safer and more environmentally sound solutions and an increasingly clearer picture of landfill limitations engendered a political battle over the future of California’s trash. A five-year plan produced by the board in 1985 touted waste-to-energy, recycling, composting and material reduction. But there was growing concern that the part-time board might not be up to the task of implementing it. It was widely perceived as being dominated by the waste-hauling industry and favoring more landfills over promoting alternatives like recycling.

Emerging interest in bottle bill concepts resulted in 1986 legislation that created a separate Division of Recycling in the Department of Conservation to house the program while a slugfest ensued in Los Angeles over the city council’s push to build the $235 million LANCER trash incinerator in a poor part of town.

Experts were predicting that the state could run out of landfill space by the mid-‘90s unless a new, more aggressive way to address waste disposal was agreed upon quickly. Potentially, new industries would be created overnight and old ones lost, and government agencies would restructure. New centers of influence would redistribute power and large amounts of money would be sloshing about.

The Legislature responded by passing a bill in 1988 that wasn’t to Governor George Deukmejian’s liking and he vetoed it. But ensuing negotiations produced a far more expansive piece of legislation and the next year AB 939—which arguably changed the culture of California to view its discards not as refuse, but as a reusable resource—became law.

When the bill was passed, California was diverting about 10% of the 40 million tons of trash being produced. The new law set 50% as the benchmark by 2000, laid out a blueprint for how to get there, and reconstituted and renamed the board the Integrated Waste Management Board in the California Environmental Protection Agency.  

The new board embraced recycling, using grants and loans to develop a recycling industry and encourage new markets for recycled goods. It also cleaned up polluted sites, regulated landfills and promoted environmentally friendly ways of handling the nastiest (oil, electronic, medical, et al) waste.

The state didn’t make 50% by 2000; that took another five years. But the ubiquitous recycling bins throughout the state testified to a reshaped consciousness about recycling. The board handed out millions of dollars in grants to local governments for recycling programs and site cleanup, and instituted new programs for handling televisions and computer monitors. And it never ceased being controversial. The board itself had a reputation as being a high-paying resting place for politicians in between jobs dating back to its first days. The inaugural choice as board chairman in 1990 was Michael R. Frost, chief of staff for the soon-to-be-departed Governor Deukmejian.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed that the board be eliminated in 2005 as part of his comprehensive government reorganization plan, and four years later it was. Sort of. Many of the board’s functions were combined in 2010 with the Division of Recycling to form the Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) in the Natural Resources Agency.

The rebranded CalRecycle continues to be an object of scrutiny, and Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012 reorganization plan included a proposal to move it from the Natural Resources Agency to the California Environmental Protection Agency. The administration reasoned that, “Hazardous waste, electronic waste, used oil, used tires, and landfill permits are typically not considered ‘natural resources’ but wastes. This program is better associated with the EPA, which regulates pollutants, than with the Natural Resources Agency, which does not.”

 

Transformation of Governmental Organizations: The Case of the California Integrated Waste Management Board (Dissertation by George T. Eowan at University of Southern California) (pdf)

Governor Brown’s Reorganization Proposal (Little Hoover Commission) (pdf)

The History of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)

An Unusual Obituary: The Integrated Waste Management Board (by Evan W.R. Edgar, Capitol Weekly)

History of California Solid Waste Law, 1985-1989 (CalRecycle website)

Introducing CalRecycle (League of California Cities)

Recycling: California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (pdf)

California Beverage Container Recycling & Litter Reduction Act (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

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What it Does:

CalRecycle regulates solid waste disposal facilities, like landfills, and promotes recycling. It provides funds to clean up solid waste disposal sites; develops and promotes alternatives to the illegal disposal of used oil; develops technical standards and permit requirements for waste tire facilities; promotes reuse and recycling of electronic devices; encourages purchasing of environmentally preferable products; and promotes the development and use of new, more sustainable products and technologies that can benefit California’s economy and environment.

 

Waste Reduction

CalRecycle points out on its website that the preferred method of waste management is to not have any waste created in the first place. To that end, it promotes a reduction in unnecessary packaging, paper waste prevention, reusable transport packaging, and better product development.

 

Solid Waste Disposal

CalRecycle inherited oversight of landfills and other solid waste disposal sites from one of its predecessors, the Integrated Waste Management Board. The department relies heavily on local enforcement agents (LEA) for guaranteeing proper storage and transportation of waste, and the operation and closure of facilities, although it certifies LEA programs, reviews permits and enforces state standards.

It also finances cleanups at sites that are a threat to public health and where the responsible party cannot be located or is unwilling or unable to pay for remediation. The department’s Solid Waste Disposal and Codisposal Site Cleanup Program provides competitive grants up to $750,000 and loans to local governments.   

 

Recycling

Perhaps best known for its beverage container recycling programs—it administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, aka the Bottle Bill— the department also runs a series of programs for E-waste, food scrap, used oil/filters, waste tires and more. Beverage containers covered under the Bottle Bill are subject to California Redemption Value (CRV), which is 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces, 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger. Thanks to the CRV cash incentive, 255 billion aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage containers have been recycled since the program began in 1987. The agency also encourages buying recycled products.

 

Grants and Loans

CalRecycle provides grants and loans to help California cities, counties, businesses and organizations meet the state`s waste reduction, reuse and recycling goals. The programs cover a range of initiatives, including beverage containers, farm and ranch cleanups, household hazardous waste, local enforcement agencies, solid waste disposal and cleanup, tire cleanup and used oil cleanup.

CalRecycle offers a competitive grant program for public agencies that reuse materials.

 

Enforcement

CalRecycle has the authority to enforce the law in a range of programs. For the solid waste facility operations it oversees, the department relies heavily on local enforcement agents (LEA), although it certifies LEA programs, reviews permits and enforces state standards. Among its other responsibilities: The department can fine publishers and printers $500 if they don’t use the required amount of recycled newsprint. Manufacturers and wholesalers selling trash bags who aren’t compliant with recycled-content standards can be put on a list and barred from doing business with the state. CalRecycle can instigate fines and criminal prosecutions for violations of laws concerning the handling of recycled oil, including non-payment of sale fee and intent to defraud reporting of lubricating oil sales. The department performs inspections related to the storage and disposal of waste tires and has the power to levy fines as high as $25,000 a day for violations.     

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Where Does the Money Go:

California began funding its new recycling efforts in the 1980s through the 1986 California Beverage Container Recycling Program. By collecting money from retailers on every empty beverage container returned by customers, the department accumulates funding for grant incentive-based programs designed to encourage an increase in the recycling market. In 2009-10, 85% of the more than 21 billion containers sold in the program were recycled. 

The Beverage Container Recycling Fund, which receives and distributes this money, has historically run a surplus and in fiscal year 2006-07 had $206.2 million on hand. That year, the state pulled in $871.3 million in revenues and transfers and doled out $879.1 million in local assistance. The state had taken advantage of this surplus a few years earlier and had borrowed nearly $300 million to cover shortfalls in its General Fund over a two-year period.

In recent years, the fund’s expenditures have tended to exceed revenues as recycling rates have climbed, resulting in a lower overall fund surplus and changes in revenue-generating rates. Shortfalls are covered by the repayment of earlier loans to the General Fund. But the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected that the fund could be insolvent by 2014-15 unless corrective action is taken.

The fund took in $1.16 billion in 2011-12, 81% of total department revenues, and spent around $1.24 billion on Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction. The vast majority of the money flowing in and out of the fund (around $1 billion) is money collected from beverage distributors and then refunded to consumers.

In 2011-12, the department reported spending $46.3 million on program administration. It paid $75 million to companies processing recyclable glass and plastic and $39.8 million in handling fees to eligible supermarket, non-profit and rural recyclers. Local Conservation Corps grants totaled $19.5 million and Curbside Supplemental Payments cost $15 million. The department made $10.5 million in city/county payments and doled out $750,000 in competitive grants.

The department also operates a Used Oil Recycling Fund, a Tire Recycling Management Fund, a Solid Waste Disposal Site Cleanup Trust Fund and an Integrated Waste Management Fund to pay for different kinds of trash diversion programs.

 

Quarterly Report on Status of the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (CalRecyle website) (pdf)

Handling Fee Final Report (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

Overview of the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (Legislative Analyst’s Office) (pdf)

California Beverage Container Recycling Program History and Fund Management Options (Department of Conservation’s Division of Recycling) (pdf)

3-Year Budget (pdf)

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Controversies:

LANCER Incinerator Blocked

As the nation grappled in the ‘80s with ways to cope with the mountains of trash accumulating in its landfills, serious consideration was given to innovative waste-to-energy projects that would essentially burn garbage to produce electricity. California was slow to join the growing movement and by mid-1987 had only one operating garbage incinerator, a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, while 100 plants had been built in other states.

But the city and county had been talking about the burning alternative since 1983 and plans were on the drawing board for 23 plants across the state, including a giant incinerator in South-Central L.A. called LANCER (Los Angeles City Energy Recovery Project). The $235 million LANCER project would build one of three incinerators that local officials hoped would be burning all the city’s household garbage by the end of the century. The other two would be in the San Fernando Valley and on the tony Westside.

Incinerators were expensive, but landfills were running out of room and suburban sprawl and water contamination issues were making it harder to plan for more of them. In Los Angeles, it was estimated that all current local landfill sites would be filled by 1993. Recycling was practically non-existent.

Despite guarantees of safety and promises of job creation and neighborhood beautification, community activists were more concerned that LANCER would turn their low-income, minority neighborhoods into a toxic ashtray. Their main concern was the emission of dioxins, a highly poisonous compound found in the defoliant Agent Orange for which there was no known safe level of exposure.

The state Legislature had balked earlier in the year at participating in LANCER, and amended legislation that funded a two-year, $1 million study by the California Waste Management Board to include a moratorium on the project.

Mayor Tom Bradley indicated in June 1987 that he no longer supported the project and in August the city council effectively killed it two months later.

 

Panel Moves to Delay Lancer Incinerator (by Douglas Shuit and Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

Mounting Opposition to LANCER Pushes Waste-to-Energy Plans to the Back Burner (by Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Council Junks Lancer Trash Burner Project (by Kevin Roderick, Los Angeles Times)

 

Battle over San Diego County Landfill

Gregory Canyon in northern San Diego County has a long, turbulent history, with developers and environmentalists battling over whether it’s an appropriate place for a landfill. Proponents say it is a desperately needed facility in a region overflowing with trash and opponents say it is an ecologically sensitive site with cultural importance to a local tribe.

The proposed project is near the San Luis Rey River and the Pala Indian Reservation, south of Highway 76 and about 3.5 miles east of Interstate 15. The dump would cover more than 300 acres and is part of 1,700 acres owned by Gregory Canyon Ltd.

Voters approved the project twice, in 1994 and 2004, but it still hadn’t made it through the regulatory process and past political hurdles. The county’s Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) approved the landfill’s operating permit in May 2011 and CalRecycle, which oversees LEAs throughout the state, gave its approval shortly thereafter.

Opponents took their fight to the Legislature where Senate Bill 833 was overwhelmingly passed, prohibiting construction of a landfill within 1,000 feet of a site considered sacred to a tribe or within 1,000 feet of the San Luis Rey River or an aquifer connected to it. Either requirement would have killed the Gregory Canyon dump. 

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation in October, expressing concern about tribal claims but saying safeguards already are in place to protect the San Luis Rey River and he felt it inappropriate for the Legislature to overturn a local land-use decision.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called it, “the worst idea to hit San Diego County since a local transportation agency tried to pave over the state park at San Onofre State Beach with a six-lane highway.”

Robert Smith, chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, said, “Not only will this landfill threaten major detrimental impacts to both surface and groundwater, it will desecrate sacred Native American cultural sites.”

An internal Q&A at the Gregory Canyon Landfill website argues that the landfill will not threaten the environment because it will employ state-of-the-art landfill liners to prevent seepage, cites an Environmental Impact Report that rejects claims of significant impacts on Native American resources, and says arguments that there is no landfill shortage are twisting data affected by the economic downturn. 

The project still faces a permit process that could delay the landfill’s opening for two years, and a court battle looms.

 

A Bad Place for a Garbage Dump in Southern California (by David Nagami, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog)

Fight to Block San Diego Riverfront Landfill Continues Strong (by David Nagami, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog)

Response to NRDC Misleading and Inaccurate Statements (by Gregory Canyon Landfill News)

Assembly Approves Bill to Block Gregory Canyon Landfill (by Michael Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Governor Vetoes Bill to Stop Gregory Canyon Dump (by Gary Warth, North County Times)

 

Recycling Fraud

Recycling is big business in California and so is recycling fraud.

California charges a nickel or dime for each glass, aluminum or plastic container purchased in the state and redeems that money when the item is returned for recycling. It can add up, with a pound of aluminum cans netting trash collectors $1.57 for their labor. It can also attract fraudsters looking for a quick pay day by carting in garbage from other states.

Authorities in the state attorney general’s office announced in May 2010 that 31 people in three separate rings were arrested for collecting $3.5 million in allegedly illegal redemptions. They were charged with conspiracy, grand theft and unlawful recycling. In one case, 1.6 million pounds of cans and bottles were allegedly imported from Nevada, where they don’t have a recycling program, and brought to recycling centers in Southern California for redemption.

A few months later, another form of recycling fraud surfaced when criminal charges were filed against the owner and two managers of San Jose-based electronic waste recycler Tung Tai Group after the company submitted $1 million in “fraudulent and fictitious” reimbursement claims for more than 2 million pounds of electronic waste that they never recycled.

E-waste recyclers pick up televisions, computer monitors and other electronic waste, break them down for recycling and collect, on average, 43 cents a pound for their material.

CalRecycle auditors had contacted investigators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control in 2008 after noticing that claims submitted by Tung Tai didn’t match up with   records kept by Golden State Records and Recycling, a company that collected and transferred materials to Tung Tai.

Agents searched the Tung Tai facility and discovered two separate sets of records that indicated the company submitted claims to CalRecycle that grossly inflated the amount of pounds of recycled material eligible for reimbursement.

Out-of-state recyclables were also at the heart of complaints against Burbank Recycling, Inc. in January 2011. CalRecycle notified Burbank that it would no longer reimburse the city for its curbside recycling operation because it suspected the city’s chosen recycling operator had defrauded the state of more than $32 million.

The department refused to recertify Burbank Recycling, alleging it had brought in recyclables from out-of-state. So the city cut its ties and sought a new recycling center operator. Unfortunately, its contract with Burbank Recycling dictated that the company could select its successor and it chose Burrtec Waste Industries Inc. in November. Burrtec took over the center in January 2012 but CalRecycle had not indicated whether it would renew the certification and allow it to participate in state programs.

 

31 Arrested in $3.5 Million Recycling Fraud (by Robert Jablon, Associated Press)

Recycling Fraud Targeted in Raids (by Damian Trujillo, NBC)

California Files Charges Against E-waste Recycler’s Execs (by Grant Gross, IDG News Service)

Calif. Prosecutes First E-scrap Fraud Case (by Chrissy Kadleck, Waste & Recycling News)

2 Arrested on $1 Million Fraud Charges (South Bay News)

City Losing Out on Recycling Funds Amid Fraud Investigation (by Mark Kellam, Burbank Leader)

City Works to Smooth Recycling Center Woes (by Mark Kellam, Burbank Leader)

Burbank Recycle Center Celebrates Earth Day (by Megan O’Neil, Burbank Leader) 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

Assembly Bill 341

Until passage of Assembly Bill 341 in October 2011, California law required local governments to divert 50% of solid waste disposed of in their jurisdictions through recycling, composting and reduction.

The new law raised the bar to 75% and set 2020 as the deadline to meet the new goal. It also put in place a new commercial recycling program to be initiated in July 2012 and extending recycling requirements to multi-family residential dwellings.

One of the stated purposes of the law was to reinforce the mission of CalRecycle in light of the elimination of its predecessor, the Integrated Waste Management Board. “This bill moves the state toward even more aggressive diversion efforts that are necessary to compensate for population growth and increases in per capita generation of waste by requiring DRRR to ensure that by 2020, 75% of the solid waste generated is diverted from landfill disposal.”

 

Mandatory Commercial Recycling (CalRecycle website)

Assembly Bill 341 (California Legislative Information)

Bill Analysis (California Legislative Information)

 

Revised Electronic Waste Law

Critics of the state’s policy on recycling electronic waste, like computer monitors and televisions, complain that it doesn’t do enough to guarantee that California isn’t simply exporting its environmental hazards to foreign countries where their populations are exposed to dangerous materials.

Assembly Bill 960, introduced in February 2011, would have amended the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 to require that exporters prove to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control that e-waste it exports will be handled according to international guidelines and laws where the waste is sent.

The bill stalled in the Senate Appropriations committee in July. 

 

Assembly Bill 960 (California Legislative Information)

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Debate:

Electronic Recycling: A Wasted Effort?

California began recycling electronic waste like computer monitors and televisions after the Legislature passed the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003. Consumers pay a fee to the state when they purchase equipment covered by the law and that money is used to make payments to companies that collect and dispose of the items in a fashion that does not environmentally burden the state.

California is one of nearly two dozen states with e-waste laws, and the legislation has undoubtedly been responsible for keeping significant amounts of potentially dangerous materials—computer monitors can contain hundreds of chemicals and compounds, from mercury to flame retardants—out of state landfills where they take up a lot of space and pose a threat to groundwater sources.

But the effort has not been without its critics.

 

Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 (CalRecycle website)

Electronic Waste: More Information (CalRecycle website)

Update on California’s Covered Electronic Waste Recycling Program (CalRecycle website) (pdf)

 

It’s a Failure

Critics of efforts to recycle electronic waste start with the definition of what constitutes e-waste. About half of what many might consider e-waste isn’t covered by the law, which mostly deals with video devices. Even CalRecycle’s own website admits “There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar ‘appliances’ should be grouped into the category has not been established.

Actually, it has been established for purposes of regulating e-waste in California. According to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which enforces the law on hazardous wastes, “Many electronic wastes are not included in the Electronic Waste Recycling Act but are still considered hazardous wastes and may not be discarded in the trash. These electronic wastes are not eligible for payment.”

Devices that are covered by the Act generally include some type of video display and include: plasma televisions, portable DVD players with LCD screens, computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes and LCD-containing desktop monitors. Myriad devices, like alarm clocks, VHS players and video gaming systems, are not included in the program.

Because California is just one of about two dozen states with an e-waste program and the federal government has no overarching laws on the matter, fraud is rampant as people from other states haul their materials to the Golden State for remuneration.

“I don't think anybody could have forecast the greed that has poisoned the program,”  Bob Erie, chief executive officer of E-World Recyclers, told Tom Knudson of McClatchy Newspapers in 2011. Knudson reported that while $23 million in fraudulent e-waste claims had been rejected by the state, another $30 million probably snuck by. He also noted that the Department of Toxic Substances Control had investigated a couple dozen instances of e-waste fraud but that no firm had been fined or prosecuted.

While fraud and other criminal behavior have opened the e-waste effort to criticism, some of the legal consequences have also drawn the ire of critics. Californians export approximately 160 million to 210 million pounds of this hazardous waste to developing countries each year. Much of that goes to China. By 2020, China and South Africa e-waste is expected to increase by up to 400% compared to 2007 levels, according to a United Nations study. India was expected to see a 500% increase.

The discarded devices pose significant health threats to the people who strip them of their rare and valuable, yet toxic, materials. In one process used in China, noxious chemicals and metals, such as lead, are released when the used electronics are dunked into pits of acid and heated over coal-fueled grills. Studies have shown marked increases of dioxin, polybrominated diphenyl ether and other deadly chemicals in the environment and workers’ blood at Chinese recycling centers.   

Legislation at the state and federal level to monitor and, in some fashion, influence how these toxic materials are handled once they leave the United States has failed.

Another criticism of e-waste recycling is specific to California. It is the only state where consumers, not manufacturers and retailers, pay for the program. Among the states that have passed e-waste recycling laws, they closely parallel California’s law but take more of a producer-responsibility approach. In many of them, the manufacturer has to take back the discarded device.

 

E-Waste Recycling, Begun with Lofty Goals, Now Awash with Greed, Fraud (by Tom Knudson, McClatchy Newspapers)

What to Do About E-Waste (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Bill Would Cut Dumping of U.S. Electronic Waste in China, India (by Susanne Rust, California Watch)

Finding Loopholes In California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act (by Beth Buczynski, Care2)

Recycling—From E-Waste to Resources (Sustainable Innovation and Technology Transfer Industrial Sector Studies) (pdf)

Importing Electronics, Exporting E-Waste: Financial, Human Costs of Electronics Disposal Spread Worldwide (by Claire Veuthey, RiskMetrics Group)

E-waste Recycling is Serious Health Threat in China (by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Treehugger)

 

It’s a Success

The legislation has successfully diverted large amounts of electronic waste from landfills, while raising public consciousness about trash storage and related environmental issues. California passed the 1 billion-pound mark for the recycling of electronic waste in June 2011.

The program is largely self-supporting, paid for by consumer fees collected at the point of purchase.

Stopping exports to other countries is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. It could actually be a boon if the feds do it. “If the federal government today said, ‘Electronic scrap shall not be exported without being treated to a certain level,’ that would grow, frankly, a domestic industry,” according to Jeff Hunts, manager of the TV and monitor recycling program at CalRecycle.

 

E-Waste Law Reaches Billion-Pound Milestone (by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News)

State E-waste Program Hits 1 Billion Pounds (by Mike Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Former Directors:

Mark Leary, 2011 (acting director)

Margo Reid Brown, 2010-2011

 

Former Chairs of Integrated Waste Management Board (CalRecycle Predecessor)

Margo Reid Brown, 2006-2010

Rosario Marin, 2004-2006. Marin started out in the financial industry and worked at City National Bank in Beverly Hills from 1981-1986. She became an advocate for the mentally disabled after the birth of a son with Down Syndrome in 1985, and lobbied Sacramento politicians on their behalf. She was appointed chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Developmental Services by Governor Pete Wilson in 1992. Marin, a Republican, was elected to the Huntington Park city council in 1994 despite the city’s heavily-Democratic constituency and served seven years (one as mayor) while still in the Wilson administration. In 1996, she was appointed assistant deputy director of the state Department of Social Services. President George Bush appointed her secretary of the Treasury in 2001, a post she held until returning to California in 2004 to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara Boxer. Marin lost in the primary to Bill Jones and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from his victory after the recall of Governor Gray Davis, appointed her to the Integrated Waste Management Board where she was elected chair.   

Linda Moulton-Patterson, 2000-2004

Dan Eaton, 1999-2000

Daniel G. Pennington, 1995-1998  

Jesse R. Huff, 1993-1994

Ed Heidig, 1992-1993

Michael R. Frost, 1991-1992

 

Former Chairs of the California Waste Management Board (CalRecycle Predecessor)

John E. Gallagher, 1989-1990. Gallagher was chairman of the board in its final days before AB 939 expanded and transformed the part-time panel. Governor George Deukmejian tried appointing Gallagher in 1990 to a designated “non-profit environmental protection” slot on the newly-reconstituted board, setting off a storm of protest. Gallagher—a former Continental Can Corp. executive and one-time executive director of Industry Environmental Council, a nonprofit consortium of bottle, can, beer and soft-drink manufacturers—was environmentalists’ poster child for what was wrong with the old board. He had led industry efforts in 1982 that defeated Proposition 11, an initiative that would have forced at least nickel refunds for beverage containers. Gallagher, facing inevitable rejection, failed to show up for his confirmation hearing and the nomination was dropped.         

Sherman E. Roodzant, 1985-1988

Terry Trumball, 1979-1984

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Founded: 2010
Annual Budget: $1.4 billion (Proposed FY 2012-13)
Employees: 679
Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery
Mortensen, Caroll
Director

After splitting two decades between the Legislature and the executive branch working on  waste management and recycling issues, Caroll Mortensen was appointed director of CalRecyle by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2011.

She earned her bachelor of science degree in environmental science from California State University, Sacramento in 1992 before spending 13 years at CalRecycle’s forerunner, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). She held a variety of positions there, including four years as legislative director.

She left the board in 2005 and for the rest of the decade was a senior environmental policy consultant to the Legislature. Mortensen was chief consultant for the State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials for two years, working on issues related to hazardous waste, green chemistry, pesticides, brownfields and other related policy areas. Her boss was Northcoast Democratic Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, himself a founding board member of the CIWMB in 1990.

From 2007-2011, Mortensen served as consultant to the State Senate Committee on Environmental Quality where she analyzed legislation and provided policy guidance related to solid and hazardous waste, and air and water quality.

As CalRecycle director, Mortensen will direct implementation of AB 341, a bill authored by Chesbro and signed by Governor Brown in October 2011 that aims to create green jobs by expanding recycling to all multi-family dwellings and businesses. CalRecycle was also given a 2020 goal for getting the state to recycle 75% of its garbage. 

 

Meet the Executive Team (CalRecycle website)

CalRecycle Director Appointed (California Manufacturers & Technology Association)

Caroll Mortensen (LinkedIn)

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Press release)

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