On Monday, RCRC testified before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and the Select Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling regarding plastic waste management and recycling challenges in rural California. The hearing, entitled “Plastic in California:  Impacts on Communities and the Environment,” focused largely on the plastic waste and its impact on the environment and solid waste management. 

RCRC was joined by Los Angeles County and CalRecycle in describing local waste management and recycling operations and the challenges they face in recycling plastics.  While recycling programs used to generate revenue or be cost neutral for haulers and local governments, reduced commodities prices have resulted in significant cost pressures for local governments across the state. 

RCRC’s testimony focused on:

  • Who rural counties are and the various ways in which we manage solid waste
  • Local litter problems and cleanup efforts
  • Challenges in managing and recycling plastic waste, including increasing frustrations with the lack of beverage container redemption opportunities
  • Recommendations for future actions

In particular, RCRC noted that local governments have long been charged with meeting the state’s solid waste diversion and recycling requirements alone and without any control over what is introduced into the marketplace. As a result, local recycling operations are much like a two-legged stool – municipalities collect and sort the material, but there is often no end market for those materials. Furthermore, RCRC stated that while we share a number of the same problems with difficult-to-manage and difficult-to-market materials as do our urban colleagues, those problems are often exacerbated because of the lack of economies-of-scale and transportation costs.

Going forward, RCRC urged the Legislature to significantly increase manufacturer engagement - both with respect to product design and use of recycled materials.  RCRC challenged manufacturers to focus on designing products that are readily recyclable and for which there are markets. Additionally, RCRC argued for increasing the use of recycled content in products, finding innovative uses for less-marketable materials, and building local and domestic markets to maximize the environmental, economic, and job creation benefits of recycling.  Finally, RCRC strongly advocated for fixing the broken beverage container recycling program to ensure that consumers can get their deposits back.