How Can We Fix Our Recycling System? The Recycling Commission Has Some Suggestions

by Caroline Griffith

California has some of the most ambitious recycling and waste-reduction goals in the country, and by and large, Californians support these goals and want to see them implemented so we can reduce our waste and our greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is, our recycling systems are becoming increasingly complicated and global. In order to bring our recycling reality in line with our aspirations, the California’s Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, an appointed body of seventeen volunteers with expertise in recycling, has issued thirty policy recommendations to the governor. 

According to a recently issued report, The Commission, formed in 2019, was tasked with coming up with recommendations to build in-state recycling and composting capacity at a pace which it says is incompatible with the practical realities of permitting processes in California, reach the ambitious and unmet recycling rate of 75% by 2020 (considering that CalRecycle reports that the 2019 recycling rate was only 37%) and clarify what is ‘recyclable’ and ‘compostable’.

The policy recommendations include suggestions on how to:

  1. Reduce the risk of fire and other hazards in discarded materials and associated risks to workers and communities, 
  2. Eliminate some packaging that impedes recycling, 
  3. Reconfigure recycling market development efforts to improve effectiveness, and 
  4. Commit to ensure that materials separated for recovery will not be processed in a manner that contradicts the environmental and social intent of recovery efforts,
  5. Fix the bottle bill by adding more redemption centers.


The recommendations to ensure that our recyclables will not be processed in a way that is contradictory to the environmental and social intent of recyclers are inspired by Assembly Joint Resolution No. 4, which seeks to compel the U.S. to ratify the Basel Convention, a multinational environmental agreement to protect developing countries from the scourge of export and dumping of wastes from rich industrialized countries. The U.S. is only one of a few countries who have failed to ratify it. 


The Commission’s complete report can be found at