Living Local: California

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The Living Local series is an insider’s look at local environmental efforts and accessibility. Take a trip around the U.S. without leaving your computer!

With stringent recycling and hazardous waste laws and many local and statewide reduction and education initiatives, California is definitely in the running for the reduce, reuse, recycle triple crown.


The state has embraced the goal of “Zero Waste California,” and from Sacramento to San Diego, residents can find recycling services, reduction resources, gardening and composting outreach programs. Here are a few highlights:

  1. Ready-Made Recycling Resources
  2. Bottle Bill Bang for the Buck
  3. E-Cycling Made E-asy
  4. Universal Waste Never Welcome in Landfills
  5. Shopping Locally from Food to Farm and Beyond
  6. Composting – The Fast Track
  7. Education and Outreach
  8. Funding Free Stuff
Photo: Yourgreenfriend.com

San Francisco has pledged to be zero waste by 2020 and also boasts the highest recycling rate in the nation – a whopping 72 percent. Photo: Yourgreenfriend.com

Ready-Made Recycling Resources

Rules vary according to municipality, but most residents can expect household recycling pickup. Many Californians will also have curbside pickup of their compost and/or yard waste.

As with anywhere, residents should check their local county or city Web site to make sure they are recycling properly and reducing their overall waste as much as possible.

In addition, a visit to the California Integrated Waste Management (CIWM) Web site is a good place to start in order to find out what to do with hazardous and/or tough-to-recycle items.


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Bottle Bill Bang for the Buck

All single-use aluminum, glass, plastic, and bi-metal beer, malt, wine and distilled spirits coolers, and non-alcoholic beverages, excluding milk, are subject to a 5 or 10 cent deposit to encourage recycling and reduce waste. Deposits can be redeemed at redemption centers, registered curbside operations and drop-offs. The program has been operating since 1988, and in that time, millions of tons of aluminum, plastic and glass have been recycled.

There is currently legislation pending in the state Senate to expand the bill to include 16 ounce and larger vegetable juice containers as well as removing restrictions on the materials that containers must be made of in order to be included in the program.

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E-Cycling Made E-asy


Residents can check the CIWMB Web site for a county-by-county directory of where to recycle all types of e-waste, from batteries to televisions. The site also lists special collection events, specific information on how to recycle fluorescent tubes and batteries and links to additional reuse and recycling resources. In addition, both the 2006 Cell Phone Recycling Act and Rechargeable Battery Act require retailers that sell these products to take them back and recycle them at no charge to the consumer.

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Universal Waste Never Welcome in Landfills

California has banned all universal waste (u-waste) from its landfills. In addition to using Earth911.com’s local recycling database, or calling 1-800-CLEAN-UP, in order to find local recycling and household hazardous waste collection centers, residents can also visit the CIWMB Web site, which maintains a list by county of local government household hazardous waste Web sites that are designed to help residents find a way to properly dispose of their u-waste. This type of waste includes:

Photo: Placer.ca.gov

A great option for local food in California is the farmers’ market, which allows you to comparison shop and choose from an array of locally grown crops. Farmers typically travel less than 100 miles to bring their crops to market, a fraction of the distance most fruits and veggies cover before reaching the grocery store. Photo: Placer.ca.gov

  • Antifreeze
  • Asbestos
  • Batteries
  • Compressed gas cylinders
  • Computer and television monitors
  • Electronic devices
  • Fingernail polish remover
  • Fluorescent lamps and tubes
  • Items containing mercury including electrical switches and thermometers
  • Latex and oil-based paints
  • Motor oil and filters
  • Needles and sharps
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Tires
  • Treated wood

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Shopping Locally from Food to Farm and Beyond


With a year-round growing season, Californians can enjoy the freshest fruits and vegetables from local sources throughout the state. In order to find a nearby farmers’ market, residents can visit the California Certified Farmers’ Markets Web site or Local Harvest. When visiting the markets, look for farmers that have been certified by The California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) organization.

Residents can also support local businesses and save resources needed to transport goods around the country and world by shopping locally. In addition to doing a Web search for the many secondhand and vintage options in the state, residents can also visit Locallectual, which allows users to search a database of businesses that carry local goods. You can browse businesses by category, city, zip code and/or an A-Z directory.

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Composting – The Fast Track

For those residents that don’t have access to curbside composting or who want to keep some of the black gold for themselves to use in their home or community garden, many counties like Alameda and Santa Barbara offer reduced rates on compost bins and resources to help the novice composter set up a home system.


For those interested in finding a community garden, there are organizations all over the state including:

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Education and Outreach

The California Integrated Waste Management Board has extensive information on its Web site on topics ranging from waste prevention in the home and at the office to educational curriculum for students of all ages. State agencies in California are also making efforts to buy products with recycled content, and they are encouraging Californians to do the same. CIWB maintains the RecycleStore, which is a recycled-content product database for everything from building materials to clothing, as well as educational resources for those interested in purchasing and using these types of products.

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Funding Free Stuff


In addition to an extensive list of freebies to give and get on the ubiquitous Craig’sList, the California Integrated Waste Management Board recently signed a $50,000 contract with the nonprofit organization, The Freecycle Network, to help update and expand the exchange network’s Web site. Thousands of Californians are joining the network each week, and therefore the board sees Freecycle as an effective infrastructure to help residents reuse.

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As California continues to invest in programs that encourage residents to reduce and reuse resources, the Golden State is turning greener by the day.

Read more from Libuse Binder at Weekly Way.

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Comments

  1. Hi, there is also another way, http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, I wonder if you’d mention it.
    The site is totally free and non-profit, and is created and run by a small group of volunteers. The site launched in UK only FOUR days ago and has 140 members already, and anyone can join and create a community anywhere in the World. It would be great to start to get some members in California, having spent a lot of time in the Bay Area myself I think it will really resonate with Californians.
    Some people confuse it with Freecycle, but it was actually borne out of some frustrations in using Freecycle. Take a look and tell me what you think, it’s for a good cause.
    Thanks for listening, lots of love
    The Big Bear

  2. California is one of the only states that doesn’t direct people to throw single-use batteries in the garbage. Just because something “isn’t hazardous” doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled.

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