Recycling in Kern County

Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps leads the way in training and community impact.

In the fight to preserve our planet and its oceans, plastic pollution remains one of the greatest challenges we face. One solution to this problem is recycling. However, due to changes in market demand and the capacity for recycling centers to meet new cost-effective standards, more than 340 recycling centers closed in California in 2019. 

With so many recycling closures, the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps has opened a new recycling center in Tehachapi, California to do its part and help meet some of that recycling demand, with a second center opening in Bakersfield this summer. Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps (CCEC) is the state-certified local conservation corps within the Farmworkers Institute of Education & Leadership Development (FIELD). 

CCEC has ambitious recycling goals, in addition to a strong desire to make an impact in the community through providing work and training opportunities. That’s what inspired CCEC Director of Recycling Andres Lopez to join the team.

Andres Lopez, who joined six months ago, was inspired by the core purpose of FIELD to empower the underserved to be self-sufficient just as much as its desire to divert plastic waste from landfills. 

FIELD's certificate is a certification from the California Conservation Corps, a state agency, that allows FIELD to operate throughout the state of California. Current programs operate in Kern County, as well as throughout the Central Coast in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, under the name of Kern Service and Conservation Program (KSACC). 

Membership in the CCEC and integration with the KSACC program is open to both those in need of a high school diploma as well as high school graduates up to the age of 26. Corpsmembers selected may earn vocational and work experience credits and may also work as peer tutors in basic educational programs offered at FIELD Learning Centers. They work and train with graduate school level mentors and credentialed teachers to deliver instruction. 

Mr. Lopez is passionate about the various community service programs CCEC is working on. For example, the Electronic Waste program allows the team to go out door-to-door to offer electronic recycling. They are also doing outreach to local businesses offering collection of mixed materials to be taken to a mixed recovery facility (MRF) which sorts valuable recyclables and reduces the waste that ends up in landfills. 

They are currently working with Bakersfield College, Mercy Hospital, and Memorial Hospital, with additional pending service agreements. 

Mr. Lopez also mentioned plans to team up with the city of Bakersfield to offer Amnesty Days for tire recycling and an effort to collect illegally disposed tires. Many tires get dumped due to the expense of processing, and this allows people in the community to drop off tires to be properly disposed of at no cost. 

As plans for more recycling centers are underway, Mr. Lopez is looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. CCEC will also play an integral part in helping FIELD develop its 

Social Businesses which offer corpsmembers and students an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience that can lead to “shared ownership” partners in various industries, giving them the ability to develop their own services within their communities. 

While California has many challenges ahead to reach its goals for recycling, thanks to people like Andres Lopez and the Chavez Corps, Kern County is able to meet some of the demand while providing learning and career paths along the way. 


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