March 11, 2006

CALIFORNIA: Extending Waste Recycling

California has made great progress over the past 15 years in conserving natural resources and reducing our dependence on landfills. Major accomplishments include:
• Establishment of statewide recycling goals & local planning requirements
• Development of an extensive recycling & composting infrastructure
• Increased removal of hazardous materials from the waste stream
• Establishment of advanced disposal fees and other manufacturer responsibility measures

However, most waste is not currently recycled. Together with plastics, biomass fractions of the waste stream constitute 75%-85% of the postrecycled materials disposed in CA landfills.

What is the composition of the materials now being landfilled? And what is the total otherwise unrecyclable biomass potential of California that could be converted to liquid and electrical energy? Two California state sponsored reports give us quantified numbers. The second report, Brief on Biomass and Cellulosic Ethanol by Rosa Maria Moller, Ph.D., also lists federal and state policies that support biomass utilization and help the ethanol industry.


California Statewide Waste Characterization Study
Integrated Waste Management Board
Study conducted by Cascadia Consulting Group
December 2004

The primary objectives of this project were to quantify and characterize the residential, commercial, and self-hauled sectors of the disposed waste stream in 2003. Part of this effort involved quantifying and characterizing important subsectors of the disposed waste stream including single-family residential and multifamily residential waste, commercial self-hauled and residential self-hauled waste, and self-hauled waste generated by several common commercial activities.

[The numbers in the chart above summarize the findings of this report. - Ed.]


Brief on Biomass and Cellulosic Ethanol
By Rosa Maria Moller, Ph.D. (CRB-05-010 , December 2005)

This report provides information on (1) the availability of biomass, (2) potential for cellulosic ethanol production in California, and (3) federal and state policies that support the use of biomass, particularly for ethanol production. There is a large amount of biomass in California. Nearly 90 million tons of biomass (agricultural residues, forest materials, and municipal waste) are produced annually in California, and 30 to 40 million tons are estimated to be technically feasible to collect and use in producing renewable electricity, fuels, and biomass-based products. According to energy experts, there is enough biomass to support the production of as much as 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol per year. However, the cellulosic ethanol industry faces challenges related to biomass collection, costs, price variability, competition from Midwest corn based ethanol industry, mitigating environmental effects, and the need of more efficient technologies for the processing of biomass to ethanol.


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