California – Local Infrastructure Planning

As of 2018, the state of California reported a 65 percent diversion rate for all materials and more than 140,000 green jobs in its recycling sector.[1] This success is attributable to California’s 1989 Integrated Waste Management Act[2] 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.


Infrastructure Planning

Assembly Bill 876 was a mandate for Californian sub-state jurisdictions to begin planning for the establishment of organic processing facilities to recycle local organic wastes through composting and anaerobic digestion. It amended Section 41821.4 of California’s Pubic Resources Code, Waste Management, Part 2, Chapter 7 (Approval of Local Planning), Article 3.

The bill requires that, beginning August 1, 2017, county and regional agencies are to submit annual reports detailing estimates of the cubic yards of organics projected to be generated in the county/region over a 15-year period. If a waste characterization study has already been conducted by the county/regional agency, this data is sufficient and no further action need be taken. In addition, the reports will identify needed facility capacity to adequately process this estimated material, as well as prospective areas in the jurisdictional range of the county/regional agency which could be used to expand or construct such facilities.


Reporting Requirements

Assembly Bill 901 amended the California Public Resources Code (Section 41821.5) to alter the reporting requirements for handlers of organic waste. The bill aimed to streamline the collection of data on waste and resource recovery. Specifically, periodic data received from recycling and composting facilities and haulers on waste types, destination, and quantity is now directly reported to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, rather than to county governments. Counties were thereby relieved of their duty to submit recycling facility data to city governments, regional agencies, and the Department. Counties may, of course, still receive this information, but only by requesting it from the facility operator.

Excerpt of California’s PRC – Section 41821.5

(a) Disposal facility operators shall submit information on the disposal tonnages by jurisdiction or region of origin that are disposed of at each disposal facility to the department, and to counties that request the information, in a form prescribed by the department. To enable disposal facility operators to provide that information, solid waste handlers and transfer station operators shall provide information to disposal facility operators on the origin of the solid waste that they deliver to the disposal facility.

(b) (1) Recycling and composting operations and facilities shall submit periodic information to the department on the types and quantities of materials that are disposed of, sold, or transferred to other recycling or composting facilities, end users inside of the state or outside of the state, or exporters, brokers, or transporters for sale inside of the state or outside of the state.

(2) Exporters, brokers, and transporters of recyclables or compost shall submit periodic information to the department on the types, quantities, and destinations of materials that are disposed of, sold, or transferred.

(3) The information in the reports submitted pursuant to this subdivision may be provided to the department on an aggregated facility-wide basis and may exclude financial data, such as contract terms and conditions (including information on pricing, credit terms, volume discounts and other proprietary business terms), the jurisdiction of the origin of the materials, or information on the entities from which the materials are received. The department may provide this information to jurisdictions, aggregated by company, upon request. The aggregated information, other than that aggregated by company, is public information.

(c) The department shall adopt regulations pursuant to this section requiring practices and procedures that are reasonable and necessary to implement this section, and that provide a representative accounting of solid wastes and recyclable materials that are handled, processed, or disposed. Those regulations approved by the department shall not impose an unreasonable burden on waste and recycling handling, processing, or disposal operations or otherwise interfere with the safe handling, processing, and disposal of solid waste and recyclables.

Other policies passed in 2015 related to capacity building for organic waste processing in California: inter-agency cooperation (AB 1045) and tax exemptions (AB 199).


[1] CalRecycle. 2014. “About CalRecycle.” Accessed June 8, 2016. [link]

[2] 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]