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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | chapter wide
Recycling alone is not the answer
December 2008

Clearcutting in the Sierra Nevada
Shopping at yard sales not only saves money, it helps the environment. Photo by Debbie Bulger.

by Virginia Draper

By 2000, most California communities diverted at least 50% of solid waste from landfills, a goal mandated in 1989 by AB 939. But we need to do much better than that. To figure out where to focus public outreach, in 2007 the California Integrated Waste Management Board commissioned a survey of residents’ attitudes towards waste management and their habits regarding reducing, reusing, and recycling, the 3Rs of Zero Waste.

The survey results suggest that the public may not understand the concern about landfills. When asked about environmental priorities, less than one in five identified landfill waste, toxic waste, or the extinction of plants and animals as concerns. Nevertheless, the majority surveyed regularly recycle key household items, though only one quarter are recycling as much as they could, and few are regularly recycling plastic bags.

Respondents were far less knowledgeable about ways to reuse and reduce: “Only about one-third of California residents regularly reuse food containers or drink water from sources other than small plastic water bottles. Less than one-in-five consistently buy products in bulk or items with less packaging.” Fewer than 10% compost.

Thus the first recommendation of the report is “to increase efforts to promote waste reduction and reuse, which lag behind recycling in public awareness and practice.” Angela Brantley, Solid Waste Program Manager for the City of Monterey, welcomes this focus: “We know that recycling alone is not the answer.”

Brantley works with Monterey businesses to develop reuse practices. For instance, she suggests setting aside office space where employees can put items they no longer use, but that others may want. And she makes sure everyone is aware of the Last Chance Mercantile in nearby Marina, a reuse depot operated by the Monterey Regional Waste Management District. Here people can leave and buy at “affordable prices” things that might otherwise go into the landfill, such as sporting goods, furniture, automotive parts, and accessories.

In Santa Cruz County at the Buena Vista Landfill and Ben Lomond Transfer Station, a program run by Kasey Kolassa, manager of the county’s Recycling and Solid Waste Services, gives away materials dropped off from construction and demolition projects. Residents can also pick up free household paint which, according to Kolassa, makes up more than 80% of the hazardous waste brought in.

The recent decline in commodity prices for recycled paper, metals, and plastic heightens the need to encourage people to choose reusable and secondhand items rather than those that can be recycled, especially plastics. Most plastics end up in the landfill after one cycle because they can be turned into only one other product.

Resources

California Zero Waste web site: www.zerowaste.ca.gov

Information about all types of waste including ways to reduce household waste, strategies and sites supporting reuse, Zero Waste business and school programs, information about hazardous wastes, and links to local agencies and drop-off sites.

For a complete copy of the survey, “General Attitude and Behavior Survey Baseline Findings November 2007,” by Gomez Research, commissioned by the California Integrated Waste Management Board visit

www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Publications/
General/53008001.pdf
.

Some find ways to reuse materials closer to home, rather than ship them to China or out of state. The Grey Bears, a Santa Cruz nonprofit, sells rolled newspapers to local floral industries for shipping insulation. They also refurbish computers and other goods for sale in their Santa Cruz Thrift Store.

In addition to reuse, the California Waste Management Board survey raised concerns about the disposal of hazardous wastes. The Board is asking local agencies to increase public awareness about what constitutes household hazardous waste, to provide more convenient disposal sites, and to better inform the public about when and where residents can drop off materials.

A final recommendation of the survey urges local entities to “continue to support efforts to make recycling services available to multi-family households.” To address this challenge, Brantley said that her agency in Monterey has recently received two large grants from the California Department of Conservation, one focused on low-income housing.

In 2007, the City of Monterey kept 67% of the waste generated out of the landfill. Manager Kolassa estimates Santa Cruz County kept 65% out. Both want to do much better. The Waste Management Board survey suggests that to increase percentages, these agencies need to educate people about the limits and dangers of landfills and to provide more information and encouragement, especially about ways to reuse products and reduce waste overall.

In November former State Assemblymember John Laird and former State Senator Sheila Kuehl were appointed to the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Both Laird and Kuehl have been honored as Recycling Legislators of the Year by Californians Against Waste.



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In This Section

Current
Humpback whale visit poses eco-ethics questions
December 2011

California leads in fighting oil addiction
October 2011

Plastic bag ban gaining momentum
October 2011

WTO rules dolphin-safe tuna a trade violation
August 2011

WTO may cut US meat labeling
October 2011

Club's Beyond Coal Campaign awarded $50 million
August 2011

Whales store carbon
August 2011

Watershed Dippers
August 2011

Richardson Grove redwoods get reprieve
August 2011

Richardson Grove redwoods threatened by highway widening
June 2011

Resilient Habitats Campaign will address effects of sea level rise
April 2011

Enviros defeat Bohemian Grove logging plan
April 2011

Sierra Club works to phase out coal
April 2011

Protect CEQA and Environmental Laws in the State Budget Process
March 2011

FDA ponders genetically engineered salmon
December 2010

State of the air
December 2010

Antibacterial soap affects fish reproductive behavior
December 2010

State bill would ban single-use plastic bags
August 2010

Atrazine affects fish reproduction
August 2010

New law will protect Americans from formaldehyde
August 2010

Opt out of unwanted phone books
August 2010

You might not be planning for climate change, but the State is
June 2010

Club report explores ending oil dependence
June 2010

American pika
June 2010

Will Commercial Whaling Resume?
May 2010

Our national parks: a vision for the second century
February 2010

Former Yosemite Supervisors call for restoring Hetch Hetchy
December 2009

Assembly resolution puts pressure on Feds to enforce Marine Mammal Act
October 2009

Report proposes sustainable water solutions for California
October 2009

Free online course on Clean Water Act
October 2009

Only 11 states have bottle laws
October 2009

UCSC makes list of “Coolest” Schools
Sierra’s top 20 coolest schools of 2009
October 2009

Farr seeks upgrade of Pinnacles to National Park
October 2009

Fishing rods donated to youth programs
October 2009

State releases climate change adaptation plan
October 2009

State still considering new logging rules
August 2009

Old Growth Redwoods
August 2009

Protected land database now available
August 2009

How much would you save by ditching your gas guzzler?
August 2009

NOAA website provides resources for coastal cities dealing with climate change
August 2009

Stimulus funds to benefit national forests
August 2009

New report shows birds in decline
June 2009

700,000 acres of new wilderness designated in California
June 2009

Researchers map West Coast ocean threats
June 2009

Sierra Club successfully challenges Stockton’s General Plan Update
June 2009

Say NO to bottled water
June 2009

Local residents propose environmental laws
June 2009

Traffic pollution linked to new cases of asthma
June 2009

County Supervisors support net metering
June 2009

Labor and enviros join forces
April 2009

Restore Hetch Hetchy moves HQ to San Francisco
April 2009

Carl Pope to step down
January 2009

Border wall harming wildlife
January 2009

Learning bird behavior turns kids into scientists
January 2009

Air Board warns consumers about air purifiers
January 2009

Green Streets improve water quality
January 2009

State body proposes plastic bag fees
January 2009

Clean coal is a myth
January 2009

Cutting their carbon footprints
January 2009

Carl Pope to step down as Executive Director of Sierra Club
January 2009

Legislation needed to increase amount of renewable energy
December 2008

Recycling alone is not the answer
December 2008

Patented seeds violate farmer's rights
December 2008

Sierra Club organizer mobilizing volunteers against clearcutting
October 2008

PG&E invests in gas, nuclear and hot air
August 2008

Help prepare Sierra Club huts for winter
August 2008

Air Board develops draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
August 2008

Eating for a Healthy Planet
May 2008


Global Warming rekindles nuclear power debate
May 2008


Volunteers needed for LeConte Lodge
March 2008


Action Alert!
Tell the Governor to support Zero Emission Vehicles
March 2008


A gift for the Corrizo Plain pronghorn
January 2008


SB 375 would link land use planning and transportation
January 2008


Governor proposes closing state parks & cutting lifeguards
January 2008


Track green-ness of your electricity
December 2007


UC named 4th in Sierra's list of cool schools
December 2007


Clair Tappaan Warming Hut property protected by conservation easement
October 2007


Cutting back on meat can help global warming
October 2007


Disappearing polar bear habitat
October 2007


International trade
August 2007


Green wedding
August 2007


New roles for our National Parks
August 2007


How we reduced our carbon footprint
April 2007


Joyce Stevens turns 80!
February 2007


Sierra Club launches weekly radio show
February 2007


Co-op America's 12-Step Plan for Climate Action
February 2007


A visit with the great California condors
June 2006


Bush administration abandons long-standing protections for critical wildlife habitat on Alaska’s North Slope

Chapter opposes water management scheme for Seaside Aquifer

Chapter and Group events to highlight marine sanctuary

End of an era: Ventana Chapter Bookstore closes

California has opportunities to reduce mercury poisoning

A biting issue

Sanctuary Draft Management Plan due out this summer

Nature Conservancy acquires gateway to Pinnacles National Monument

Elkhorn Slough threatened by subdivisions

Open space preserved on San Mateo County Coast

Greased lightning - Peregrine falcons in California

It’s time to restore Hetch Hetchy

Appeal to deny subdivision near Elkhorn Slough successful

Chapter revises Los Padres National Forest map

Forest geneticists visit Point Lobos

Methyl bromide poisoning devastates farm workers’ health

Resurrect those old Sierra Club cups?

Transit - highway rules unfair

California's oak woodlands need your help!