Funding recycling with grants
Most people think they are recycling when they put items in a recycling container. But really, sorting items for separate collection is just a small step in the recycling process.

The hard part of recycling is turning those discarded items into new products and then selling the new products for a price high enough to pay for all the collecting, sorting, cleaning, processing, manufacturing and distribution required to market a recycled product. The price also has to be low enough to compete with similar products made from resources mined, logged or otherwise extracted from the earth.

Recycling is expensive and has many points of potential business failure, but recycling provides public benefits ranging from resource conservation and job creation to avoided disposal and reduced pollution in manufacturing processes. Therefore, governments intervene to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed in recycling-related businesses.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) sponsors a Recycling Market Development Zone program that I administer for Ventura County and its 10 cities, creating opportunities by providing incentives such as low-interest loans. Occasionally, grant funding also becomes available. This is one of those rare times when money is available in the form of a grant instead of a loan, and applications are due by the end of this month for $5 million in grants statewide, with a maximum of $3 million for any single grant.

If you know a business that is able to make products with recycled content, have someone contact me and take a look at the latest grant opportunity.

For more information, go to

Unfunded reuse
Someone had been dumping tree-trunk sections onto the shoulder of a section of highway in Ventura County’s scenic Santa Rosa Valley, and a strange thing happened when a county inspector, responding to a complaint, went out to investigate.

Parked nearby, the inspector saw a truck pull up. Eager to catch the dumper, the inspector watched. A beefy man in a dirty pair of overalls climbed out of the cab of his truck, walked around to open the back of his trailer, lowered his lift gate, and instead of dumping, muscled a few of the big, burled, heavy specimens into his truck and drove off.

As illustrated by this incident, if you have an item to discard, consider whether someone else might want it. Perhaps if the dumper had listed the wood on Craigslist, in the Pennysaver, in the Recycler, on Freecycle or in a newspaper’s classified advertising, illegal dumping could have been avoided.

Unexpected payoff from eco-education
Several years ago, my neighbor Hudson Saffell left home to join the Marines. Recently, he wrote an email to me describing how the environmental education he received in Ventura County, through schools, parents and the community, affected his work in the military. He wrote, “I brought these environmental lessons and values of Ventura all over the world. At military bases, I was known as the Marine who picked up litter, the one who made sure my fellow Marines recycled and, eventually, the sergeant who insisted the drivers he supervised turned off engines instead of idling for long periods of time.”

Hudson continued, “In Afghanistan, the need to conserve was a matter of life and death. Whenever a base ran out of a resource, whether that was fresh water or gasoline, it meant another transport had to brave the improvised explosive devices and make a run for resupply. In the long term, conservation is also a matter of life and death back in peaceful Ventura County. Eventually, when resources run low, we begin to rely on increasingly dangerous and expensive measures to extract more from the earth.”

One annual event Hudson credits for instilling his environmental ethic is the annual Coastal Cleanup Day. The next one will be Sept. 20. Participating in such events, especially involving children, can sometimes affect the world.

Summer recycling reminder
You can make new plastic from bottles and new metal from cans, but you cannot make anything from garbage, and some mixed materials are garbage. Separating out the pieces from recycled items made with mixed materials is one of the pernicious costs of recycling. That is why Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a nonprofit anti-litter and pro-recycling group sponsored by major American corporations, sent out a summer recycling reminder regarding suntan lotion.

When you empty a bottle of suntan lotion, before putting it into your curbside recycling cart, detach the pump and discard it in the garbage. According to KAB, pumps are “often made with multiple types of material, so they usually are not recyclable.”

Plastic tubes are also not commonly recyclable, but here in Ventura County, all of our curbside recycling programs accept them, so feel free to put those, as well as metal sunscreen bottles, in your curbside container.