For many of us, recycling has become a part of our daily, or at least weekly, lives.  We know that recycling helps conserve natural resources, and most San Diegan's know that recycling conserves space in our landfills. But did you know that recycling also conserves energy and water and helps to reduce air and water pollution?

For example, production of recycled paper uses 80% less water and 65% less energy, and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production.  If every American recycled his or her newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. For every four-foot stack of paper you recycle, you save a tree.

It’s the Law

State law required all California cities and counties to cut the amount of waste going to their landfills in half by the year 2000. The Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (also known as AB 939 or the IWMA), was enacted by the California State Legislature to reduce dependence on landfilling of solid waste.  The IWMA required disposal of waste by the local jurisdictions to be cut by 25% by 1995 and by 50% by 2000.  Currently, the majority of San Diego County's local jurisdictions have met the 50% diversion rate.
We are improving, but this is an ongoing effort!

AB 341 - Big Push to Increase CA Recycling Rate

As part of a broader push to conserve natural resources, California legislators set a goal to increase the state’s recycling rate to 75 percent by 2020. According to the state, approximately 75 percent of our waste stream comes from businesses, and while the residential recycling rate in the county’s unincorporated areas is 47 percent, commercial businesses are recycling less than 20 percent of their solid waste. The law went into effect July 1, 2012.

In 1989, the state mandated that each jurisdiction reach a recycling rate of 50 percent. In the unincorporated area of San Diego County, the recycling rate increased from 43 percent in 1995 to 57 percent in 2010. This increase is the result of several actions, including a mandate that construction and demolition waste be recycled, additional materials accepted for recycling, and the expansion of commingled recycling - the process in which residents can put all recyclable materials into a single container. In the past year, commingled recycling programs added rigid plastics which include yogurt containers and plastic toys to an already long list of materials.

Now Accepting Rigid Plastics in the Blue Bins!

This includes yogurt containers, plastic toys, lawn furniture and much more click here for the detailed breakdown.

Effective November 15, 2010, the City of San Diego’s curbside recycling program expanded to accept new and additional types of plastics. City residents can now recycle most plastic food containers and non-food plastics. New acceptable plastic food packaging containers include round yogurt and dairy tubs, clear PET #1 clamshell plastic, drink cups, deli trays, and berry baskets. All containers must be clean and contain no food waste or trash. Residents in other areas of San Diego County serviced by a private hauler are encouraged to recycle these items as well, as all other haulers servicing San Diego County are now accepting all rigid plastics as well.


Recycling Saves Energy

Conserving energy remains an important issue in California, especially with increased demand and unpredictable energy markets.  Energy savings through recycling are an important environmental benefit.  It almost always takes less energy to make a new product from recycled materials than it does to make it from new materials. 

For example, when making cans, using recycled aluminum requires 96% less energy than manufacturing new aluminum from its virgin material, bauxite. Other commonly recycled items have a strong energy reduction when compared with the energy intensity used to extract their virgin materials. Recycling plastic bottles uses 76% less energy, paper uses 45% less, and glass uses 21% less.

Each year recycling in California saves enough energy to power 1.4 million California homes and reduces water pollutants by 27,047 tons.

Recycling Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Heard of Global Warming?  The average American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we consume.

Many may question how efficient recycling is after all of the hauling, transporting, and processing involved in recycling. However, in a recent study by Washington-based environmental consultant Jeffrey Morris, the emissions calculations are not even close. The entire recycling process uses 11.3 million Btu to manufacture new products from a ton of recycled material.  In comparison, manufacturing goods from virgin materials uses 23.3 million Btu.

Ton for ton, recycling reduces more pollution, saves more energy and reduces GHG emissions more than any other solid waste management option. Californians currently throw away millions of tons of recyclable materials every year. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, over 60 percent of the "garbage" in California landfills can be composted or recycled. Increasing recycling should be California's priority strategy for reducing global warming effects associated with solid waste management...

CA consumes 657 million barrels of oil and emits 492 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. CA's beverage container recycling effort for January - June 2007 saved the equivalent of 2.5 million barrels of oil and reduced 293,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases; equal to taking 16,000 cars off the roads.

You have the power to make a difference. Learn how to make small changes to your daily routine which can add up to big changes in helping to stop global warming.

Recycling Reduces Air and Water Pollution

Recycling reduces air and water pollution because the recycling process reduces the amount of air pollution produced by power plants and the amount of water pollution produced by chemicals used in the manufacturing process. 

California recycles 14 million trees worth of paper each year, reducing air pollutants by 165,142 tons.

Recycling Saves Natural Resource

  • By using materials more than once, we conserve natural resources ensuring our children's futures. 
  • California’s recycling saves 14 million trees each year and helps to reduce air pollutants by 165,142 tons.
  • Recycling paper saves trees and water.
  • Making a ton of paper from recycled stock saves up to 17 trees and uses 50% less water (that’s 7000 gallons).
  • Four pounds of bauxite are saved for every pound of aluminum recycled.

Recycling Creates Jobs

According to a press release, dated August 25, 2006, from the California Integrated Waste Management Board and City of San Diego's Environmental Services Department:

In California, waste recycling and management ranks higher on an economic and job creation scale comparable to the state’s vaunted entertainment industry.

By reducing the trash thrown away by recycling it or reusing it, California has created a mainstream industry of statewide importance comprised of 5,300 business operations employing more than 85,000 workers and generating $4 billion in salaries and wages along with $10 billion worth of goods and services annually.

The environmental impacts of recycling are also astounding. Each year recycling saves enough energy to power 1.4 million California homes and reduces water pollutants by 27,047 tons. Furthermore, recycling saves 14 million trees each year and helps to reduce air pollutants by 165,142 tons.

Recycling Saves Space in Landfills

Recycling saves space in our existing landfills. As landfills fill up we have to find new space for additional landfills.  There is no more space in San Diego – unless you want a landfill in your back yard.  Recycling reduces the amount of solid waste going into landfills, making each landfill last longer.