California cities and counties have been key in helping the State to achieve its goals for 50% waste diversion and 80% beverage can recycling goals through implementation of waste reduction and recycling programs. These efforts to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills also offers benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions. By expanding programs that meet the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – cities and counties will be on the way towards achieving the goal of zero waste and a low carbon future.
Waste Prevention in Municipal Facilities
Adopt a Zero Waste Goal
Adopting a Zero Waste Goal is the first step toward achieving success. Local governments can pass a resolution and develop a Zero Waste Strategic Plan. These documents provide a framework for policies and initiatives to guide the planning and decision-making process.
Initiate a campaign in municipal facilities to go paperless. A variety of strategies can be implemented including use of e-mail to transact memos and letters, avoid making paper copies, and use of cloth napkins and towels in break rooms instead of paper napkins and paper towels to save natural resources, reduce waste, and save money!
Recycle Office Paper
Office paper is the second largest component of the commercial waste stream. It is a high value, recyclable resource. Local governments can significantly reduce their use of office paper and achieve immediate cot-savings through requiring double-sided printing, whenever feasible. Recycling office paper would further generate revenue and reduce energy and GHG emissions generated by manufacturing virgin paper from trees.
Reuse, Repair, and Refurbish Furniture and Equipment
Surplus office furniture and equipment can be reused, repaired, or refurbished at a cost savings compared to purchasing new materials. Local governments can salvage these materials to save money and GHG emissions.
Community Level Waste Prevention
Helping communities plan for waste, use this tool to explore 100 policies and programs communities can implement to reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills and promote waste prevention and materials reuse across waste generation sectors. Access city and county ordinance, contract, and franchise agreement language and program websites.
Initiate a Pay-as-You-Throw (PYT) Waste Disposal Program
One option for local governments to reduce GHG emissions associated with solid waste generation includes adoption of a Pay-as-You-Throw program. Communities with PYT programs create a direct economic incentive for residents and businesses to recycle more and to generate less waste. PYT programs have seen significant reductions in waste generation and thereby a decrease in GHG emissions. Almost half of all California communities have PYT programs. EPA estimates that most communities are able to further increase their waste diversion rates by 25-35 percent through implementing a PYT program.
Implement an Organic Material Recovery Program
In many cities and counties, organic waste makes up the largest percentage of the waste going to landfills. By diverting these materials for reuse or recycling, cities and counties can reduce methane emissions generated by anaerobic conditions in landfills. Targeting yard trimmings, food scraps, and wood waste may provide a significant contribution to reduced GHG emissions.
Capture Methane from Landfills
Local governments can capture landfill gas for use as a renewable, green energy source. Preventing emissions of methane through the development of landfill gas energy projects helps communities build a sustainable future. Cities and counties may also generate revenue from the energy produced through methane recovery systems. For more information, visit the US EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program.
Implement Food Recovery Programs
Local governments can reduce solid waste through food recovery programs. Food scrap management includes preventing food waste, feeding people, converting food waste to animal feed and as a last alternative composting. The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and StopWaste.org (Alameda County resource) provides resources to assist local governments, businesses, and households ensure good food goes to the dinner table instead of going to waste.
Policies for Community Action
Policy and Program Impact Estimator: A Materials Recovery Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Calculator for Communities
About the Calculator: EPA developed a calculator that expands the Waste Reduction Model (WARM) framework to include a community's existing waste stream and policy and program options. This Excel spreadsheet calculator is designed to help municipalities, counties, and tribes estimate reductions in life cycle GHGs from implementing new or expanded solid waste policies and programs in their communities.
Adopt a Construction and Demolition (C&D) Waste Recycling Ordinance
C&D waste comprised 22-percent of the solid waste stream in 2004. Much of the material can be salvaged for reuse or recycled. Cities and counties that pass C&D waste reduction ordinances can help to reduce the amount of these materials going to landfills and the associated GHG (methane) emissions.
Over 50 percent of California's solid waste is generated by the commercial sector. Local governments can work with haulers and recyclers on franchise contracts to increased commercial sector recycling. Cities and counties that adopt this type of ordinance are essentially requiring that all commercial waste shall be recycled.
Education and Outreach
Initiate a Recycle at Work Program
Local governments can educate employees about the benefits of recycling and positive environmental practices through the implementation of a Recycle at Work program.
Environmentally friendly landscaping practices can save GHG emissions and money. Cities and counties that compost and mulch reduce the amount of water and energy needed to manage landscapes. By greening the landscapes of city parks and facilities, local governments can educate and influence the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste materials in homes and commercial landscaping by demonstrating cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly solutions that conserve natural resources and energy.
Participate in WasteWise Communities
Local governments seeking solutions to climate change can participate in the WasteWise Communities. This program offers technical assistance to promote cost savings and efficiency with waste prevention, recycling, and purchasing recycled content products. Cities and counties can also receive recognition through this innovative program.
- California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) brings together the state's recycling and waste management programs and continues a tradition of environmental stewardship.
- Waste Reduction and Recycling Best Practices from The Institute for Local Government (ILG) offers a Best Practices Framework and Waste Reduction and Recycling tip sheet for cities and counties to learn about waste management activities that offer GHG emission reductions.
- Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases by US EPA report on a life-cycle assessment of GHG emissions and sinks related to municipal solid waste management activities.
- US EPA Municipal Solid Waste Facilities website offers information on landfills as well as facts on source reduction, which prevent the generation of waste in the first place.