As of 2014, the state of California reported a 65 percent diversion rate for all materials and more than 140,000 green jobs in its recycling sector. This success is attributable to California’s 1989 Integrated Waste Management Act and the state’s more recent efforts to increase organics recycling through the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), a state agency that coordinates the state’s multiple waste and recycling management programs.
In order to address the 15 million tons of compostable organics still being landfilled, in 2014 the state legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1826 for mandatory commercial organics recycling, as well as four other recycling bills in 2015. These laws sought to further increase the state’s organic waste diversion infrastructure by both incentivizing businesses and mandating state agencies to create mutually shared regulations and goals for organic waste recycling.
While one of the laws pertains to tax exemptions, three of the laws mutually reinforce one another by affecting the way Californian jurisdictions manage their waste streams. Essentially, the laws lay the groundwork for California to better monitor its state recycling system in a way that will ascertain the best means to improve its recycling rate and to ensure sufficient capacity for organics diversion.
AB 1045, the bill related to inter-agency cooperation, is now codified in the CA Public Resources Code as Section 42649.87. The bill explicitly asserts the myriad agricultural and environmental benefits of composting. In particular, it mentions: the reduction of volatile organic compounds and ammonia produced by unmanaged decomposition of organic materials; diversion as a strategy for overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as part of California’s climate change plan; and several land management benefits, such as erosion control, decreases in synthetic fertilizer needs, and the potential for soil carbon sequestration through compost application in agriculture and landscaping.
As an extension of existing laws requiring California agencies to develop source reduction and recycling plans, AB 1045 requires the California Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate with other state departments in agriculture, air resources, and water resources to promote the use of compost on “working lands” for agriculture, forestry, and range. These agencies must further foster organic waste diversion from landfills and the use of compost across the state by assessing the infrastructure needs to meet organic waste reduction and recycling goals as stipulated in relevant California statutes, including AB 1826 (Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling).
The agencies must also: (a) meet with interested stakeholders at least quarterly, (b) hold at least one public workshop to receive comments on their plans, and (c) develop recommendations for promoting recycling infrastructure across the state, which are to be shared publicly via the CalEPA website by January 1, 2017. In addition, the Californian Air & Water Resource Boards will coordinate their permitting processes and co-regulation of composting facilities to ensure composting activities are properly managed. AB 1045 seeks to lower bureaucratic hurdles to establishing composting infrastructure by having all state agencies coordinate permitting and other regulation requirements.
Other policies passed in 2015 relate to capacity building for organic waste processing in California: reporting requirements (AB 901), local infrastructure planning (AB 876), and tax exemptions (AB 199).
 CalRecycle. 2014. “About CalRecycle.” Accessed June 8, 2016. [link]
 Strom-Martin, Virginia. 1997. “A Proposed State Role in California’s Recycling Agenda.” Environs Vol. 21, Issue 1, p.73-82. UC Davis School of Law. [PDF]