Recycling and Product Responsibility programs reduce landfill waste

This is Part 1 of a 2-segment feature on California-based recycling and Product Stewardship programs. Check out Part 2 for recyclable specifics.

Recycle logoThe growing consumer demand for green products means that responsibly managing not-so-green products is crucial. California, which often leads the way with environmental issues, is working to create green solutions for “stuff” that until recently wasn’t recyclable.

Here’s the growing list of California’s recyclables.

Mattresses are a huge component of the waste stream, says Christina Piles, the City of Redding (California) Solid Waste Public Works Supervisor for Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste.

Mattresses on road

Mattresses tossed by the side of the road is a huge problem – why not recycle instead!

Since the recycling program launched in 2009, consumer response has steadily increased. Since its launch, the City has received and recycled 17,124 mattresses. One Saturday they filled an entire trailer at the recycling center and had mattresses left over!

The City charges a $7.25 drop-off fee for each piece, mattress or box spring.

Businesses can now bring in compact fluorescent, fluorescent light tubes, old fluorescent light ballasts and batteries. For a small fee, you can bring in as much as you like.

Redding also accepts some construction debris for recycling, but excludes dirt, rocks and chunks of concrete.

“The more we keep out of our landfills, Piles said, the more we extend their life.” The mattress recycling program alone has made room for over 8 million pounds of garbage.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Product Stewardship programs help decrease landfill use.

Product Stewardship reduces the impact of products lifecycles – from their raw materials stage to manufacture, distribution, to customer use to end-of-life. Those involved in a product’s lifecycle must take responsibility to reduce any risks it may pose throughout its “life” to health, safety and the environment.

Funding for California's Paint Stewardship program is built into the purchase price of the paint

Funding for California’s Paint Stewardship program is built into the purchase price of the paint

The California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC) is a network of  local governments, non-government organizations, businesses, and individuals who work together to achieve Extended Producer Responsibility regulations that create take-back programs for the things we use.

California’s Paint Product Stewardship program began October, 2012.  As with similar programs, funding is built into the paint’s purchase price. Consumers can drop off small amounts of leftover paint without paying a fee. To find local drop-off sites, check paintcare.org.

Leftover paint can also be brought to your Transfer Station for recycling, for a small drop-off fee, with some guidelines.

In Redding, residents, but not businesses, can drop paint off on Thursdays through Saturdays, and there’s no fee charged. You can bring in up to 15 gallons of latex paint, but only 5 gallons at a time for other paints.

“It’s a state transportation regulation that limits the quantity,” Piles explained.

California passed the first ever state law mandating that manufacturers take back mercury-filled thermostats.  Heating and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesalers are required to accept mercury thermostats from the public for free. Contractors who remove mercury thermostats must recycle them. To locate a drop-off site near you at www.thermostat-recycle.org.

There’s push for state mandated product stewardship and producer responsibility for compact fluorescent lamps (bulbs) and ballasts, as well as for mattresses, said Heidi Sanborn, the CPSC’s Executive Director.

They’re huge problems, said Sanborn. They get illegally dumped because of the fee at the transfer station.

There's a pilot take-back program for used carpet in 6 rural California counties

There’s a pilot take-back program for used carpet in 6 rural California counties

“You can’t charge people when a thing has no value to it,” she said.

The drive behind EPR, said Sanborn, is to get manufacturers to be responsible for designing products that are better, recyclable or have a closed loop system.

“(Manufacturers) listen to consumers,” she said. “If consumers demand it, they’ll do it. If they don’t, they won’t!”

Six rural California counties currently have carpet take-back pilot programs, including Del Norte, Calaveras, Humboldt, Plumas Tehama and Siskiyou counties.

Kevin Kendrick, a CPSC Board member, reported that the carpet program in Del Norte County is a huge success. Their first trailer pulled out filled with 8,000 pounds of carpet!

Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh said the County doesn’t participate in the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) program, the stewardship organization that administers California’s Carpet Stewardship program.  It has its own in-house department for similar programs, citing the waste tire recycling program the county provides in Anderson, California.

Other California product stewardship programs include: a rechargeable battery program and a cell phone take-back program. Retailers that sell these are required to take them back.

Call2Recycle provides boxes for consumers to recycle batteries and cell phones

Call2Recycle provides boxes for consumers to recycle batteries and cell phones

Sanborn stressed the need for more EPR programs. Items such as solar panels, camp style propane tanks and roofing shingles are big problems that could be well addressed with product stewardship, she said.

But consumers and manufacturers need to step up.

Use the programs that are in place, Sanborn said. Purchase products from companies like Dell that have take-back programs in place. And let manufacturers know they need to “design it green or take it back!”

Designing and buying products that won’t end up in landfills is everyone’s responsibility.

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