Toxics, Recycling & Solid Waste

Barrel of unknown waste, bright green tint

Protecting California's Environment from Toxics, Hazardous Waste and Garbage

Californians are unnecessarily exposed to toxics in consumer products, hazardous waste, and the residue of landfill waste every day.
We can do better, and Sierra Club California staff and volunteers are working to reduce toxics exposure and encourage better reuse and recycling of solid waste.


To understand the magnitude of the challenge, consider statistics collected by Cal Recycle, the state agency responsible for statewide waste recycling policy. It estimates that roughly 35 million tons of waste are disposed in California's landfills annually. Of this, about 32 percent is compostable organic materials, 29 percent is construction and demolition debris, and 17 percent is paper.  In short, most of the material going into landfills today is recyclable or compostable.  
Landfills pollute our groundwater and air, attract pests, and harm wildlife.  In fact, landfilling is the largest human-generated source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2.  Sierra Club supports waste management policies that ensure that products be recycled, organics cycled safely back into soil, and discards that cannot be recycled are specially treated and buried in landfills.  


Additionally, Sierra Club California has been actively involved in reducing Californians' exposure to toxics in consumer products. In recent years our staff and volunteers have:
• Supported and helped get passed the first "green chemistry" law in the nation designed to protect consumers from unnecessary exposure to toxics through consumer products;

• Pushed for development of strong rules to implement the green chemistry law; 

• Supported successful legislation to get a known carcinogen out of infant baby bottles and sippy cups; and

• Pushed for adoption of a robust mercury thermostat recycling program as another step in implementing extended producer responsibility policies in California that ensure that hazardous waste is reclaimed after a product's useful life is over.
As our population grows, the need for better waste and toxics management practices will continue to be essential to contain pollution and negative impacts to the environment and public health.  Often, disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted by polluters.  Sierra Club California partners with environmental justice groups to help clean up toxic contamination.
If you would like more information about how you can help Sierra Club California's waste reduction and toxics protection efforts, contact us here.