California trash talk

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Frank Teng
Energy and Sustainability Services

Several new environmental measures in California took effect in January. The state has rolled out a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions and a requirement that 15 percent of new cars sold must run on electricity or alternative energy sources. Those measures may have an indirect impact on real estate business, but another measure affects the commercial and multi-family business directly: mandatory recycling.

Under the Mandatory Commercial Recycling program that goes into effect July 1, 2012, all commercial and public entities must both “source separate” (ensure paper, plastic and metal aren’t mixed with trash) and arrange for proper hauling of the recyclable material (self-hauling is also allowed).

The state law requires local governments to develop compliant programs, and owners of leased property can require tenants to source separate waste. Commercial properties that generate more than four cubic yards of solid waste per week, as well as apartment buildings with five or more units, are subject to the law. About 250,000 businesses will be affected.

Mandatory Commercial Recycling is considered necessary because commercial enterprises generate nearly three quarters of all solid waste in landfills, much of it easily recyclable. Interestingly, overflowing landfills are not California’s main reason for the regulation. As the state’s CalRecycle website explains: “Increasing the recovery of recyclable materials will directly reduce GHG emissions…from multiple phases of product production including extraction of raw materials, preprocessing and manufacturing.”  Landfills are also a source of methane gas, a particularly intense GHG.

Owners and occupiers that already have recycling programs may find they don’t have to anything differently. Those that have not focused on solid waste reduction—even if their properties are outside California–might want to view this as a wake-up call. JLL has helped multinational corporations and individual buildings implement recycling programs that save costs, ensure responsible disposal of waste, and build employee engagement with sustainability programs. Companies in California can even win statewide awards for their efforts. Recycling isn’t that hard and the benefits can be very compelling.

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