The state of California estimates around 65 percent of the state's trash is being recycled. But while that figure is impressive, Californians can't rest on their laurels.

Recent state regulation is increasing our waste reduction and recycling goal to 75 percent vy 2020. Attaining such an ambitious diversion of recyclables from landfills means we may need to change the way we think about our discards. When you get right down to it; "waste" is only waste if it winds up in a landfill.

Recycling is one of the easiest things we can all do to conserve our valuable natural resources. But the job doesn't stop when you push your burgundy recycling cart out to the curb. It's just as important to make sure you let your dollars do some talking, too. How? By buying products with recycled content, and thus "closing the loop" of the recycling process.

When you think of recycled content, what comes to mind? Copy paper and toilet tissue from junk mail, and egg cartons from old newspapers are just the tip of the recycled-content pyramid. Every day there are exciting new products being manufactured from recycled materials, from what you walk on to what you wear. For example, ever wonder what artificial grass is made from? Well, recycled beverage bottles are included in the recipe for a green lawn that doesn't need water. Lots of carpet is, too. And playground surfaces and landscaping materials (e.g. rubber mulch) are now made from old tires.

Fabric manufacturers are processing scrap leather for use in both furniture and auto upholstery applications. And mattress manufacturers frequently use castoff construction lumber for their products. T-shirts and fleece jackets are made from recycled water and soda bottles.


Advertisement

Using recycled content in the production of materials has become so popular, in fact, there are organizations springing up to certify those companies' claims. Emeryville's SCS Global Services (www.scsglobalservices.com), for example, certifies companies' recycled content and/or green product claims. And who knows what other industries will spring up as a result of increasing demand for green products.

As Californians are asked to reduce, reuse and recycle even more in the future, we need to be mindful that our actions have a significant impact on our communities, our state and beyond. What we put in our recycling cart and retail cart can help to reduce the use of raw materials in the production process, which decreases associated environmental impacts. I'd say that's a win-win for everybody.

For a list of resources used in this article, email Lois at lois@wastediversion.org.