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America Recycles Day: California Upgrades Fight Trash Pollution

Every year, California discards enough plastic to fill 80,000 Olympic-sized pools. In response to a lagging statewide recycling rate and rising public concern about this surge of single-use trash polluting our neighborhoods and ocean, California is modernizing its recycling system to expand reuse and in-state remanufacturing.

California recycling innovations include seven recently passed laws, new ways to redeem bottles and cans, the launch of food and yard waste recycling and $270 million in new investments to move away from our disposable economy by incentivizing businesses that design products to be used again instead of thrown away.

“California can ensure that our waste is recycled by remanufacturing it right here in our state,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “The solution to trash pollution in our oceans and communities is innovating – building a circular economy together.”

In observance of America Recycles Day 2021, California marks several historic actions to reverse the state’s recycling slump.


$270 Million In Upgrades For Circular Use

California’s $270 million investment in modernized recycling systems includes:

• $165 million for food and yard waste recycling programs and facilities.

• $75 million to attract green industry with CalRecycle’s new Office of Innovation.

• $5 million for surplus food recovery because 1 in 5 Californians does not have enough to eat while about 1.8 billion still-fresh meals get thrown away.

• $5 million to increase air-cleansing, green spaces and recycle food waste in disadvantaged communities with Community Composting programs.

• $20 million to turn food waste into clean energy in waste-water treatment plants.

New Laws To Cut Single-Use Trash Pollution

Last month, Governor Newsom signed laws to move California to a more circular economy through more informed consumer choice and greater industry accountability.

Truth in advertising laws:

• “Chasing arrows” recycling symbol only for products 60 percent of the state recycles.

• Stricter standards to label products compostable.

Increasing recycling and reducing pollution laws:

• Tougher standards for exporting mixed plastics to meet recycling mandates.

• Businesses must only provide single-use food utensils and condiments on request.

• More flexible operations for beverage container recycling centers.

• Empty glass container washing and refilling allowed for Beverage Container Recycling.

• Local government supports to follow food and yard waste recycling law.

Updating Bottle And Can Recycling

Californians recycled over 426 billion bottles and cans since the Bottle Bill passed in 1986. In the face of market changes for recyclables and local challenges, communities can now customize their takeback methods to meet local needs with Beverage Container Recycling Pilot Projects. Existing pilot projects include:

• Culver City: Mobile truck parks in different areas on alternate days paying cash.

• Irvine: At-home pickup mails payments after processing CRV.

• San Francisco: Includes bag drop-off sites with later payment, mobile and permanent recycling centers.

• San Mateo County: Three fixed CRV takeback sites with limited hours in three cities.

• Sonoma County: CRV bag drop-off sites with later payment in six cities.


Food, yard and other organic waste make up 56 percent of everything California throws away. Organics in landfills are a top source of climate super pollutants in the state. To reduce landfill methane emissions, starting Jan. 1, 2022, cities and counties must:

• Collect and recycle food and yard waste into green products like biofuel and compost.

• Ensure grocery stores and other large food-generating businesses send still fresh, surplus food to people without enough to eat.

Food and yard waste recycling is estimated to create about 17,600 jobs and build a multi-billion renewable industry.