Commercial Recycling Laws
California’s Mandatory Commercial Recycling Law
Statewide Waste Characterization data, the commercial sector generates nearly three fourths of the solid waste in California. Furthermore, much of the commercial sector waste disposed in landfills is readily recyclable. Increasing the recovery of recyclable materials will directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions. In particular, recycled materials can reduce the GHG emissions from multiple phases of product production; including extraction of raw materials, pre-processing and manufacturing. A co-benefit of increased recycling is avoided methane emissions at landfills from the decomposition of organic materials. Use of composted organic materials also provides environmental benefits such as carbon storage in soils and reduced use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water.
Mandatory Commercial Recycling was one of the measures adopted in the Assembly Bill 32 Scoping Plan by the Air Resources Board (ARB) pursuant to the California Global Warming Solutions Act (Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006). The Mandatory Commercial Recycling Measure focuses on increased commercial waste diversion as a method to reduce GHG emissions. It is designed to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions of 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents. To achieve the measure’s objective, an additional 2 to 3 million tons of materials annually will need to be recycled from the commercial sector by the year 2020 and beyond.
The regulation was adopted at CalRecycle’s January 17, 2012 Monthly Public Meeting. This regulation reflects the statutory provisions of AB 341 (Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011 [Chesbro, AB 341]) and provides additional procedural clarifications. The regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law on May 7, 2012 and became effective immediately. On June 27, 2012 the Governor signed Senate Bill 1018 which included an amendment that requires a business that generates 4 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week to arrange for recycling services.
Key Elements of the Law
Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011 (Chesbro, AB 341) sets forth the requirements of the statewide mandatory commercial recycling program. Below are basic descriptions:
To reduce GHG emissions by diverting commercial solid waste to recycling efforts and to expand the opportunity for additional recycling services and recycling manufacturing facilities in California.
- Business Commercial Recycling Requirements. A business (includes public entities) that generates four cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week or is a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more shall arrange for recycling services. Businesses can take one or any combination of the following in order to reuse, recycle, compost or otherwise divert solid waste from disposal:
- Subscribe to a hauler(s).
- Arrange for the pickup of recyclable materials.
- Subscribe to a recycling service that may include mixed waste processing that yields diversion results comparable to source separation.
A property owner of a commercial business or multifamily residential dwelling may require tenants to source separate their recyclable materials to aid in compliance with this section.
CalRecycle advises businesses to contact their local recycling coordinator to find out how to recycle in their community and if there are any specific requirements in their community. Communities may have mandatory commercial recycling ordinances with different thresholds or more specific business recycling requirements than the state law. The local recycling coordinator also may have related business opportunities and/or resources to share.
Recycling benefits identified by CalRecycle include:
- Opportunities for businesses or multifamily complexes to save money.
- Creating jobs in California by providing materials for recycling manufacturing facilities.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Keeping valuable materials out of landfills.
- Creating a healthy environment for the community and future generations by recovering natural resources.
- Local Government Requirements. Each jurisdiction shall implement a commercial solid waste recycling program that consists of education, outreach and monitoring of businesses, that is appropriate for that jurisdiction and is designed to divert commercial solid waste from businesses, whether or not the jurisdiction has met the requirements of PRC Section 41780.Each jurisdiction shall report the progress achieved in implementing its commercial recycling program, including education, outreach and monitoring, and if applicable, enforcement efforts and exemptions, by providing updates in its electronic annual report.
- CalRecycle Review. CalRecycle will review each jurisdiction’s commercial recycling program that consists of education, outreach and monitoring. The following is an overview of the review process:
- An evaluation as part of its formal AB 939 review, conducted every two or four years pursuant to PRC 41825, of each jurisdiction’s programs, which includes an annual jurisdiction site visit, review of the Electronic Annual Report, and other information a jurisdiction may deem relevant.
- If the jurisdiction is found to not have made a good-faith effort in implementing its programs, possibly including its mandatory commercial recycling program, CalRecycle can place the jurisdiction on a compliance order as part of the AB 939 review, and if it fails to adequately meet the conditions of the compliance order, then CalRecycle could consider a penalty hearing.
- July 1, 2012, Local Jurisdiction Commercial Recycling Program Implementation: On or after July, 1, 2012, each jurisdiction shall implement an education, outreach and monitoring program. Efforts may be phased in over time.
- July 1, 2012, Commercial Recycling Requirements: On and after July 1, 2012, a business that generates four cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week or a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more shall recycle.
- August, 2013, Jurisdiction Annual Reports: Each jurisdiction shall report the progress achieved in implementing its commercial recycling program, including education, outreach and monitoring, and if applicable, enforcement efforts and exemptions, by providing updates in its electronic annual report required by Section 41821.
- August, 2014, CalRecycle Review: First review of jurisdictions’ that are in a biennial review cycle on their implementation of the regulation, with reviews conducted every biennial or quadrennial review cycle thereafter depending on each jurisdiction’s review status.
Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling (MORe)
Background & Overview
In October of 2014 Governor Brown signed AB 1826 Chesbro (Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014), requiring businesses to recycle their organic waste on and after April 1, 2016, depending on the amount of waste they generate per week. This law also requires that on and after January 1, 2016, local jurisdictions across the state implement an organic waste recycling program to divert organic waste generated by businesses, including multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units (please note, however, that multifamily dwellings are not required to have a food waste diversion program). Organic waste (also referred to as organics throughout this resource) means food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste. This law phases in the mandatory recycling of commercial organics over time, while also offering an exemption process for rural counties. In particular, the minimum threshold of organic waste generation by businesses decreases over time, which means that an increasingly greater proportion of the commercial sector will be required to comply.
Mandatory recycling of organic waste is the next step toward achieving California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. California disposes approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills each year, of which more than 30 percent could be used for compost or mulch (see the 2014 Waste Characterization Study). Organic waste such as green materials and food materials are recyclable through composting and mulching, and through anaerobic digestion, which can produce renewable energy and fuel. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills have been identified as a significant source of emissions contributing to global climate change. Reducing the amount of organic materials sent to landfills and increasing the production of compost and mulch are part of the AB 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) Scoping Plan. For more information on the connection between the waste sector and California’s GHG emission reduction goals, please see CalRecycle’s Climate Change page.
Implementation Dates and Thresholds
The law phases in the requirements on businesses, including multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units,* over time based on the amount and type of waste the business produces on a weekly basis, with full implementation realized in 2019. Additionally, the law contains a 2020 trigger that will increase the scope of affected businesses if waste reduction targets are not met. The implementation schedule is as follows:
- January 1, 2016: Local jurisdictions shall have an organic waste recycling program in place. Jurisdictions shall conduct outreach and education to inform businesses how to recycle organic waste in the jurisdiction, as well as monitoring to identify those not recycling and to notify them of the law and how to comply.
- April 1, 2016: Businesses that generate eight cubic yards of organic waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
- January 1, 2017: Businesses that generate four cubic yards of organic waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
- August 1, 2017 and Ongoing: Jurisdictions shall provide information about their organic waste recycling program implementation in the annual report submitted to CalRecycle. (See above for description of information to be provided.)
- Fall 2018: After receipt of the 2016 annual reports submitted on August 1, 2017, CalRecycle shall conduct its formal review of those jurisdictions that are on a two-year review cycle.
- January 1, 2019: Businesses that generate four cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
- Fall 2020: After receipt of the 2019 annual reports submitted on August 1, 2020, CalRecycle shall conduct its formal review of all jurisdictions.
- Summer/Fall 2021: If CalRecycle determines that the statewide disposal of organic waste in 2020 has not been reduced by 50 percent of the level of disposal during 2014, the organic recycling requirements on businesses will expand to cover businesses that generate two cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week. Additionally certain exemptions, previously discussed, may no longer be available if this target is not met.
*Note: Multifamily dwellings are not required to have a food waste diversion program.