California – Organic Waste Mandates – Methane Reduction

California has implemented a statewide methane emissions reduction program focused on organic waste recycling and food recovery, signed into law by Governor Brown on September 19, 2016. The Office of Administrative Law approved the regulation after public comments in September 2020. The legislation (SB 1383 Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) aims to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) through food recovery, diversion from landfills, and dairy and livestock manure management.


Statewide Organic Waste Diversion Targets

The main targets of the law are statewide reduction of organic waste disposal (to landfills) by 75 percent and recovery of at least 20 percent of currently-disposed surplus food by 2025. This new law aids the state in achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels, as established in AB 32 (Núñez, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006). Additionally, SB 1383 codifies reduction in methane emissions from livestock and dairy manure management operations up to 40 percent below the sectors’ 2013 levels by 2030. These new regulations took effect on January 1, 2022 and local jurisdictions can impose penalties for non-compliance beginning January 1, 2024.

Food recovery requirements of SB 1383 apply to residents and businesses across California.  Food donors are mandated to track and report their food recovery efforts and establish contracts with food recovery organizations and services. Commercial edible food generators can use CalRecycle’s model reporting tool to keep records of contracts, schedules for food donation, quantities donated (in pounds per month), and types of food that each recovery service can receive or collect.


Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs)

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are greenhouse gases with short atmospheric lifetimes, compared to carbon dioxide, and harm human health, natural ecosystems, and agricultural production. The most common SLCPs, black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons, are responsible for up to 45 percent of current global warming. In California, 20 percent of methane emissions are due to organic waste in landfills. Since organics make up 50 percent of landfill waste in California, reducing the amount of food scraps, yard trimmings, paper, and cardboard sent to landfills will drastically reduce methane emissions. The State Air Resources Board is in charge of implementing and monitoring reduction in SLCPs below 2013 levels by 2030, specifically methane by 40 percent, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40 percent, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50 percent. The reductions enacted in SB 1383 are statewide average targets, not minimum requirements.


SB 1383 Expands Composting Capacity

SB1383’s organic waste mandates apply to residents and commercial businesses. Residents can self-haul organic waste or subscribe to collection services through Republic Services, which provides kitchen food scrap containers every two years, at no cost to residents, and best practices for incorporating cardboard, yard trimmings, and leaves into food scraps to support statewide composting capacity. RecycleSmart is responsible for monitoring contamination of organic recycling carts and residential and commercial compliance with SB 1383. 

Residents can also process their own food scraps into compost at home. RecycleSmart offers composting workshops and informational videos in addition to reduced cost home composting bins with a two bin limit per household. Cities throughout California, including San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland, also support vibrant community composting organizations who operate in opposition to solid waste franchise districts, showing that supportive statewide policies are impactful in catalyzing the growth of the community composting sector at the local level (source).

SB1383 requires jurisdictions to purchase recycled organic materials as outlined in Article 12. Accepted recovered organic waste products include compost, mulch, renewable gas, and electricity from biomass conversion and they can be sourced from within the jurisdiction or elsewhere in the state. Procurement targets for 2022 are available on CalRecycle’s website and will be re-calculated in five years.  

Each jurisdiction’s recovered organic waste product procurement target shall be calculated by multiplying the per capita procurement target by the jurisdiction population where:
(1) Per capita procurement target = 0.08 tons of organic waste per California resident per year.
(2) Jurisdiction population equals the number of residents in a jurisdiction, using the most recent annual data reported by the California Department of Finance.


Read about some other states and jurisdictions that implement compost procurement policies here.


How SB 1383 Fits Within California’s Circular Recycling Economy

Prior to implementation, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, (CalRecycle) was responsible for analyzing the progress of the waste sector along with state and local governments in achieving reductions in organic waste disposal no later than July 1, 2020. CalRecycle finalized new regulations to achieve emission reduction targets in November 2020 that took effect in January 2022. 

SB 1383 also amends the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, which requires cities and counties to prepare and submit countywide integrated waste management plans to CalRecycle. Integrated Waste Management Consulting and CalRecycle anticipate composting and anaerobic digestion to be the primary methods of diverting organic waste from landfill disposal. California has more than 160 permitted composting facilities and more than a dozen anaerobic digestion facilities that currently manage 6 million tons of organic waste. In 2021, Republic Services processed 1.7 billion pounds of organic waste into more than 275,000 tons of compost (source).  Finished compost is marketed and sold as a nutrient-rich, soil-amendment to businesses, farms, and residents. Organic waste can also be converted into natural methane gas to help fuel collection vehicles (source), as stated in the bill: 

“State agencies shall consider and, as appropriate, adopt policies and incentives to significantly increase the sustainable production and use of renewable gas, including biomethane and biogas.”


Composting to improve livestock and manure management

SB 1383 requires dairy and livestock operations, which account for over half of California’s methane emissions, to reduce methane emissions by up to 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. Regulations may not be implemented until January 1, 2024 and, prior to implementation, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is required to work with dairy and livestock sector stakeholders to identify barriers. A Dairy and Livestock GHG emissions Working Group was convened with participation from CARB, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California Energy Commission, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). 

The Non-Digester Working Group presented six recommendations for reducing methane emissions to help prioritize funding, research and guidance for future policies: 

“1. Continue providing financial incentives for non-digester practices already known to reduce methane.
2. Better quantify environmental benefits and impacts and address environmental justice concerns related to non-digester practices.
3. Study the market for value-added manure-based products.
4. Evaluate new non-digester practices through commercial-scale research and development.
5. Develop data to support additional economic incentives for non-digester projects and implement regulatory changes if doing so will enable economic viability of carbon credits or other incentives.
6. Develop an outreach and education program for dairy and livestock operators.”

Recommendations from the Digester and Research Needs Working Groups are summarized on the CARB website.

Environmental justice advocates were consulted and recommended that funding incentives should be prioritized for operations whose practices have no net negative impacts on nearby communities and demonstrate sustainable practices that are protective of groundwater, air quality, working conditions, and animal welfare.


Example implementation of organic waste mandates: City of Davis

The City of Davis introduced mandatory organics waste collection in July 2016 and has since worked with consultants and CalRecycle to expand this program and update the city municipal code to be in compliance with the new regulations. There are six main elements of SB 1383 to be implemented in Davis: organics and recycling collection, contamination monitoring, education and outreach, capacity planning, procurement requirements, and edible food recovery. 

Collection services are handled by Recology Davis, an employee-owned resource recovery operation, and the agreement between the city and Recology will be updated for SB 1383. Contamination monitoring will be achieved through maximum route monitoring. Recology and city officials are working together to ensure recording, reporting, and follow-up requirements for contamination monitoring are met on all routes. Recology Davis currently brings all organics collected to the Yolo County Central Landfill composting operations and the city is negotiating a short-term agreement to ensure that all organics collected in Davis are composted. Davis, CA currently provides annual outreach to residents, schools, businesses, and edible food generators about waste sorting and recycling. The outreach program was modified to include translation into multiple languages based on most recent census results, as required by SB 1383.

While all residents and businesses in Davis have existing access to recycling and organics collection, SB 1383 requires specific labeling and color-coding of collection containers by 2036  to ensure uniform compliance statewide (grey or black for trash, green for organics, or blue for recycling). The city plans to integrate compliant container colors through replacement as needed.

SB 1383 also requires jurisdictions to purchase recycled-content paper and procure recovered organic waste products such as compost, mulch, and renewable energy. Davis, CA has a purchasing plan established for recycled-content paper and currently uses compost in some public parks and green spaces however the city needs to expand procurement of recovered organic waste products to meet the targets required by SB 1383. Discussions are ongoing with Valley Clean Energy to determine how procurement can be increased. 

To reach the goal of recovery of 20 percent of edible food by 2025, Davis is collaborating with Yolo County staff to create a county-wide food recovery network based on recommendations from the Edible Food Recovery Capacity Study and Funding Assessment. City officials are responsible for identifying edible food generators and connecting them with food recovery organizations in their local jurisdiction. Contracts between generators and recovery organizations are required in the new legislation. Each city must also provide outreach to edible food generators detailing their requirements under SB 1383 and perform annual inspections to ensure edible food generators are properly recording and reporting recovery efforts. For the first year, the city has requested a $155,800 expenditure from the General Fund to support the development of the edible food recovery network with long-term funding proposals planned for 2023.


More Information

Original post from August 31, 2022
Avatar photo
Follow Sophia Jones:
Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is the Policy Lead with ILSR’s Composting for Community initiative, where she researches, analyzes and supports the building of US policy that advances local composting. Her background in sustainable development and agriculture reflects her interest in solutions-based, community-led development initiatives.

Avatar photo
Follow Megan Matthews:
Megan Matthews

Megan Matthews was a research fellow with ILSR’s Composting for Community initiative assisting with research, data analysis, and administrative support. She is interested in using data and outreach to promote sustainability, food equity, and environmental justice through the lens of agroecology.