California recycling not as green as would seem

Near Mark Oldfield's desk at the California Department of Conservation sits a ream of copy paper that is more than a routine office commodity.

Made in part from recycled fiber, it is a symbol of the state's green spirit, one ream among thousands backing the department's claim that it is a champion of the environment – and complies with state law requiring it to buy recycled paper.

There is a dark side to those sheets of bright, white paper: the part that isn't recycled comes from trees logged in the biologically rich but endangered forests of Indonesia.

Oldfield, a public affairs officer, was not aware of the connection until contacted by The Bee. Now that he knows, Oldfield said his office will not buy anymore and may try to return the unused reams.

"We're required to buy this type of paper," he said. "And that's what we did."

California has a worldwide reputation as a leader in global warming, more so than any other state. But an ongoing Bee investigation has found some of the state's choices – such as failing to evaluate environmental costs of printer ink cartridge recycling and allowing its employees to travel on the dime of energy companies – raise questions about the effectiveness of its efforts.

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