An unusual obituary: The Integrated Waste Management Board


BOARD, California Integrated Waste Management


Born:   January 1, 1973

Died:    December 31, 2009


Preceded in Death: Z. Harry Astor, Ralph Dills,  Ronald Reagan, Sam Egigian, Robert Frazee


Survived by: Godfather Byron Sher; Sons; Mike Frost, Jess Huff, Wes Chesbro, George Larson, Ralph Chandler, Ed Heidig, Dan Pennington, Paul Relis, Steve “Moose” Jones, Danny Eaton, Jose Medina, Mike Paparian, David Roberti, Carl Washington, Mark Leary, Jeff Danzinger, Gary Petersen, and John Laird; Daughters; Nan Drake, Kathy Neal, Janet Gotch, Linda Moulton-Patterson, Cheryl Peace, Rosario Marin, Rosalie Mule’, Patricia Wiggins, Margo Reid Brown, Sheila Kuehl, and Carol Migden; Uncles; Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, and Kip Lipper; 450 grandchildren, and the usual suspects


Services: Byron Sher Auditorium, December 15, 2009, 10 a.m. After January 1, 2010, a closed DORRR, not open for public viewing.


In memory: in lieu of compost, donations may be made to the Californians Against Waste Foundation.



By Evan W.R. Edgar


    The California Integrated Waste Management Board was given the death penalty in the early morning of Friday, July 24, 2009, as the beleaguered Legislature voted for SB 63 (Strickland). Amidst a $26 billion dollar budget deficit, and a Governor that was adamant about “blowing up the boxes”, the budget was adopted laden with compromises leading to 31 budget trailer bills. The Legislature threw out the trailer trash along with the recyclables, to allude that waste was being cut, by abolishing the Board that has cut waste by 54%.


Reaganomics: The State Solid Waste Management Board was conceived in 1972 by SB 5 (Nejedly-Z’Berg-Dills) and signed by Governor Reagan. The late great Z. Harry Astor was able to convince Governor Reagan to grow government at the time of new fiscal conservatism to address the public health and safety issues affecting the management of garbage. The early seventies saw the growth of packaging and consumerism coupled with the closing of burn dumps and the advent of the sanitary landfills to manage the state’s waste out of sight and out of mind. A 10-member part-time Board went to work in 1973 to develop a plan to stop litter and pollution and begin resource recovery programs on the heels of Earth Day to Keep America Beautiful. The infancy of the Board was spent creating the local enforcement agency system, defining transformation facilities, and developing County solid waste management plans.


That 80’s Board:   The Board sprouted in the eighties, and was renamed the California Waste Management Board with the passage of AB 2906 (Lehman) in 1982, and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The Board developed “A Comprehensive Plan” in 1985 that focused on waste-to-energy, recycling, composting, and source reduction, an inverse hierarchy. Those teenage years were burning with desire to erect large waste-to-energy facilities in Los Angeles with Mayor Bradley’s LANCER proposal, while not embracing the emerging Bottle Bill concepts. In 1986, with the support of environmentalists, recyclers, retailers, the beverage industry, and local governments, California enacted AB 2020 (Margolin). The Division of Recycling was created under the Department of Conservation to house the Bottle Bill program, and became a distant cousin of the Board, representing only 3% of the waste stream. Meanwhile, the Water Board started   to require groundwater monitoring wells and lined horizontal expansion at all landfills. The Waste Board became the first state agency in the nation to address post-closure care by requiring 15 years of financial assurances and closure cost estimates for all active landfills per the AB 2448 (Eastin, 1987). The Waste Board survived the awkward adolescent era.



Recycle More than Before:     As the LANCER project went down, and the sanitary landfills filled up, there was a garbage barge lost at sea in 1987. California claimed to have only 15 years of capacity, and a new environmental ethic was born with the passage of AB 939 (Sher, 1989) signed by Governor Deukmejian. The Board matured, left home to Watt Avenue, began a full-time effort, and became fully integrated in all aspects, and renamed itself the California Integrated Waste Management Board on its 17th birthday. The Board had a mission of diverting 25% of the waste by 1995, and 50% by the 2000, following a new hierarchy of reduce, reuse, and recycle. In 2006, the Board made claim to a 54% diversion rate, cutting waste out of the system.


The unheralded Board has been breathing and pumping new life into recycling and the clean-up of California for over 36 years. This Board has cleaned up 1,000 old burn dumps and illegal dump sites and ensured proper funding for landfill post closure maintenance. The Board increased the diversion of used tires, successfully regulated the recycling of 500 million pounds of electronic waste, and has funded over $3 million per year in household hazardous grants to local governments. The Board has loaned over $100 million dollars to 120 recycling enterprises and has provided over $41 million in grants to 600 entities for education and market development. On climate change issues, the Board has accelerated the landfill gas capture program and passed policies to divert 50% of the methane-generating organic waste from landfill by 2020. The Board has been the leader in the state on green building standards, green procurement policies and promoting extended producer responsibility. This self-funded Board had maintained an entrepreneurial spirit, which is rare in government, to propel businesses to think green and inspire an industry to be green. The Board has matured with a larger mission of greenhouse gas reduction strategies with the 36 million tons of solid waste still being disposed of for conversion into green energy products produced by emerging sustainable businesses. The Board’s open and transparent process, coupled with the vision to build upon today’s recycling facilities for tomorrows climate change solutions, never received the recognition it deserved. 



Terminator 5 – The Waste Board:      As the Governor and editorials blasted the political appointees for biding time on this obscure state Board, their broad-based and critical functions for the environment and sustainable business practices were not fully understood or appreciated. The Governor decided that the Waste Board rhymed with “waste” and vowed to cut it, before any cuts were made to education and health care as part of this year’s budget mess. SB 63 abolishes the Board as of January 1, 2010, and transfers its duties and responsibilities to the new Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (DORRR), which would be created within the Natural Resources Agency, merging with the Bottle Bill’s Division of Recycling program. All stakeholders agree that the elimination of the Board under a Department structure could close the DORRR on the vibrant, robust, and transparent public process that the Board has institutionalized. Putting the Waste Board genie back in the Bottle Bill, would add detours on the Road Map for diversion. The Governor terminated the Board with the signing of SB 63, but wanted to provide hospice care, as he was willing to work with the Legislature to house the Board’s programmatic functions in the most appropriate agency.


“The reports of my death have been greatly     exaggerated” – Mark Twain


RIP – Recycle in Peace: The Board’s death penalty was not given a reprieve by the Governor, as he guides this involuntary euthanasia process.  The only stay, will be that the old Board will not move next DORRR. The Transition Team is busy with opening the DORRR with the new look, the CalRECYCLE brand, and keeping the momentum and soul alive during the reincarnation. However, with the Bottle Bill funding and the landfill tip fee dollars in a double death spiral, attrition and furloughs is leading to atrophy.  May the Board Rest in Peace, having died too young at 37 years old, just over half way to zero waste.


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