Waste Reduction & Global Climate Change
Solid waste reduction and recycling help address global climate change. The manufacture, distribution and use of products – as well as management of the resulting waste – all result in greenhouse gas emissions. Waste prevention and recycling reduce greenhouse gases associated with these activities by reducing methane emissions, saving energy, and increasing forest carbon sequestration.
The California waste stream is primarily composed of organic (food) waste, paper products, and construction and demolition debris. Harder to decompose items such as plastic, glass, metal, electronic and hazardous wastes are also present in the waste stream in significant amounts. Traditional solid waste management has relied heavily on large landfills, and to a lesser degree incineration. However Federal, state and local laws and regulations are forcing a move towards waste prevention and minimization, including greater reliance on recycling and diversion.
California Integrated Waste Management Act
The California Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) requires that local governments prepare waste diversion plans. Now, recent legislation, AB 341, requires that 75% of the waste stream be recycled by 2020 and planning is underway to achieve that goal. The current State Agency dealing with waste issues is the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
Waste Prevention & Recycling
SCAG is responsible for looking at both short and long term solutions to effectively address the regional waste problem. In the short term, the region will still need to rely heavily on landfills and, when local facilities have filled to capacity, exporting the waste to other areas, leading to higher trash rates and added traffic congestion and air pollution. In the long term, SCAG will assist the region in changing the way residents and businesses think about trash and move towards a system of waste prevention and minimization. The move towards this system will take time and require a variety of waste management strategies, including extensive use of recycling. The SCAG region will need to achieve maximum diversion from landfills through emerging technologies, policies and best management practices.