Bill would force businesses to recycle

August 5, 2009 7:27:05 PM PDT
All large businesses in California may soon be required to recycle. The low recycling rates at offices, malls and hotels around the state have been brought to light. Now, a bill to change that has passed the assembly and is awaiting action by the state senate.

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California has the highest recycling rate in the nation. 58 percent of the state's waste is either sent to a recycling plant or composted. Residents all over the state have gotten used to the weekly recycling routine. But, when they go to work it is a different story.

"There's a lot of commercial enterprises that just haven't stepped up to implement the same kind of basic recycling programs that you and I take for granted in our homes," said Mark Murray with Californians Against Waste.

A state study with the most recent statistics available shows large office buildings recycle only about 7 percent of their waste. Shopping malls recycle about 19 percent. Large hotels recycle about 23 percent and fast food restaurants recycle about 35 percent.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro wants businesses to do better. He says, "It's time to raise the bar."

Chesbro is pushing a bill that would raise California's total recycling goal from the current 50 percent to 75 percent by the year 2020. The measure would also require all large businesses start recycling by the beginning of 2011.

"That's been one of the great untapped areas that we haven't really done as much as we should be doing," he said.

The requirement would apply to any business that generates more than four cubic yards of waste a week. The bill does not include any penalties for businesses that refuse to recycle. Those would be implemented by local governments.

"It doesn't have a big hammer in it. But we would like to try to find ways to increase and encourage what is really a very economical activity to start off with," Chesbro said.

The bill passed the Assembly and is now in the state Senate. At the most recent hearing, no one testified against it. But, several organizations, Including the State Chamber of Commerce and the League of California cities say they are still studying it.

Kyra Ross with the League of Cities told ABC7, "We're still mulling over a number of the amendments and what that will mean for local government as we move forward."

San Francisco is a leader in getting businesses to recycle. Office buildings in the city already recycle more than 70 percent of their waste and they are saving money as a result. Even so, the San Francisco Building Owners and Managers Association says it may be hard to get those kinds of results in other parts of California.

"Each of your high rise buildings will have thousands of people in it on a daily basis, tenants, visitors, people coming and going. So, just getting them to understand that a building has a recycling program and respecting the difference between garbage and recyclables and compostables," explained Ken Cleveland.

Chesbro believes it can be done and he says recycling is good for both the environment and the economy.

If we are going talk about moving out of this recession with a green economy, there's no better example that currently exists of creating jobs through our environmental efforts than the recycling efforts in this state. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created and I believe tens of thousands more jobs can be created," he said.

The bill would also require large apartment buildings to recycle -- another area where we could do better in California.

The next step for the bill is a hearing of the senate appropriations committee, later this month.

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