California has for decades led the world in recycling and in making the connection between recycling and environmental and economic sustainability. State laws and policies promulgated in Sacramento have promoted this leadership. Individual Californians have also enthusiastically embraced recycling because they know that it helps reduce pollution, fights climate-change, reduces the need for raw materials, preserves natural resources and reduces the energy used to mine and process native ores.
The coronavirus crisis has changed a lot of things about how we live. So-called non-essential businesses were shuttered for weeks, and there has been widespread panic-buying for basic items such as paper towels, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The food-supply chain also has been upended. Consumers have been emptying shelves of traditional canned goods soups, beans, tuna, vegetables and fruits. Whole sections of grocery stores have been laid bare.
To meet this new hyper demand for canned goods, the nation’s food processors have been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But one thing is true: Without cans there are no canned goods. And the demand for metal cans also has spiked geometrically. A recent headline in The New York Times trumpeted, “Boom in Canned Goods Means a Boom in Cans, Too.”
Have you ever been driving down the freeway and seen a flatbed truck with a big stack of flattened cars and pickups on board, and wondered where these crushed vehicle carcasses were heading?
There are hundreds of these trucks on the road every day in California. Just where do old cars go when they die? The answer may surprise you.
As a nation-state of more than 40 million people combined with the legacy of the state’s car culture, California is home to more than 36 million registered vehicles. Just like any other durable goods, some of these vehicles reach the end of their useful life every year – about 1.5 million per year.
Just as the coronavirus ruthlessly attacks vulnerable points in the human body, the pandemic is also exposing weaknesses in a range of society’s organizations and arrangements. Government is no exception.
But as difficult as a crisis like this can be, with effective leadership there are also opportunities for far-reaching reform and improvement.
The people of New York City recall the hellish 9/11 attacks. As devastating as they were, valorous, tough-minded actions by determined citizens and public servants alike resulted in extraordinary recoveries in Manhattan, the state of New York and the nation. Many aspects of life in the city after 9/11 were even better than before.
This year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the dawn of the modern environmental era. Federal legislation since then has altered the landscape, creating the foundation for decades of environmental progress, and government action spurred the private-sector innovation that has powered historic accomplishments.
On Jan. 1, California became the first state in the nation to require solar panels on all new homes up to three stories high. The unique mandate was approved last year by a state agency, the California Energy Commission.
Meanwhile, just down the street in Sacramento, another agency of the same state government, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, is intent on designating the same solar panels that will be used to comply with the solar-power requirement as “hazardous waste.”
As if the ongoing homelessness crisis isn’t enough, California is facing another emergency—a recycling crisis—and it’s about to get far worse if a department of state government has its way.
California has been a national leader in recycling. Yet recently, recycling facilities for consumer items including bottles, cans, and paper have closed. This is due in part to foreign countries’ decision to stop accepting some of California’s recycled material.
Regrettably, it is also the result of dubious decisions made by some of our own government officials here.