Connecting the Links in the Recycling Chain

— by Stacy Sinclair, Ed.D

Compliments of “Bear Tan”. Photo by me and Lewis Tan.

The other day I was talking to my sister, as I usually do, about our day and the mysteries that surround us. Our conversation drifted from the goblins of October to the gratefulness of November. We both live in Los Angeles. She lives in a multi-unit building and I live on a sailboat. Both are high density neighborhoods and our experience to leave the planet a bit better than we found it is unusually similar – it’s difficult to make a difference.

I aspire to be more like my sister in her drive to recycle and to help her community do the same.  She and I have both helped our areas to increase recycling bins and make them more accessible, but she does more. She patiently sorts her trash, collects recyclables and takes them to the local recycling center.  She has inspired her neighbors to do the same or at least to give her their recyclables so she can take them in.  With the increase in the unhoused who go through the building’s trash bins looking for recyclables, neighbors put together an area – easy to reach – for tenants to leave recyclables and for passersby to collect them.  It’s labeled for that purpose. There’s a sense of community on this street. Everyone seems to take care of everyone else. People walk, they pause and talk to each other.  So do the dogs they walk.

So, she was telling me about her day, going to the local recycling center to drop off, and the all too usual result – that the center was not taking recyclables. This time it was because the attendant was on a break.  She confirmed whether he would be working the posted hours (he wouldn’t), but was able to return later in the day.  Again, the attendant didn’t want to take her recyclables.  This time it wasn’t that the truck was full or that he had to take a break. It was that he didn’t have cash to compensate her.  She asked for a voucher.  He didn’t want to give it, but finally did so reluctantly. Persistence.

My sister has a relationship with everyone, and the recycling attendant is no exception. They joke and she loves his sense of humor, but how many people do you know who would go three or four times to the recycling center in hopes of being able to drop off?  Should she go to another one?  The next closest one is more than 5 miles away. 

A few weeks ago, the Governor approved legislation related to waste and recycling: 

  • AB 881 requires a 50% reduction in solid waste through source reduction, recycling, and composting activities, with specified exceptions.
  • AB1311, the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act requires the Department to pay handling fees to eligible recycling centers, and requires those recycling centers to pay refund values, based on the number of beverage containers and not on the basis of weight. This applies to bag drop recycling centers, and requires a bag drop recycling center to pay the refund value for beverage containers within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 3 business days.
  • AB 1201 authorizes new guidelines for determining whether a plastic product is compliant with labeling requirements, and whether this labeling is misleading to consumers. This includes updating the definition of a “plastic product” to include a consumer product, as defined, a package or packaging component, a thin plastic sheet film product, or a food or beverage container.
  • SB343 expands upon current law in regards to environmental marketing claims related to the recyclability of a product or that packaging be truthful and that consumers deserve accurate and useful information related to how to properly handle the end of life of a product or packaging.
  • AB 962, the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, requires containers under certain circumstances to be rendered unfit for redemption.

Will this new legislation make it easier or harder for me and my sister to recycle? We’ll see. The first step is telling people that expectations are changing and we may soon need many more recycling centers – and attendants to run them.

I hope you’ll join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Tags: recyclinglegislationassemblybillswaste

About the Author

Stacy Sinclair, Ed.D

Stacy Sinclair is an environmental scientist and author. She partners with USGBC-LA to raise awareness about the issues related to sustainability and resilience facing decision-makers.

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