San Mateo County, California – Waste Disposal Surcharges

California’s 1989 Assembly Bill 939 (AB 939) required local governments throughout the state to develop integrated waste management plans to detail how they will reach certain diversion goals outlined in the legislation. AB 939 also allowed for governments to levy a fee to pay for the cost of developing and implementing these plans. 

“CHAPTER 8. Local Fee Authority
41900. Each city and county shall demonstrate a funding source, or sources, available to pay for preparing, adopting, and implementing the element or plan, as required by Sections 41003, 41230, 41303, and 41430.
41901. A city, county, or city and county may impose fees in amounts sufficient to pay the costs of preparing, adopting, and implementing an integrated waste management plan prepared pursuant to this chapter. The fees shall be based on the types or amounts of the solid waste, and shall be used to pay the actual costs incurred by the city or county in preparing, adopting, and implementing the plan, as well as in setting and collecting the local fees. In determining the amounts of the fees, a city or county shall include only those costs directly related to the preparation, adoption, and implementation of the plan and the setting and collection of the local fees.
41902. A local agency may directly collect the fees authorized by this chapter or may, by agreement, arrange for the fees to be collected by a solid waste hauler providing solid waste collection for the city or county.”


The County of San Mateo uses a $9.89/ton AB 939 fee levied on all waste disposed of at landfills in the county to pay for programs associated with its integrated waste management plan. This fee funds various solid waste reduction and diversion programs and household hazardous waste programs for the county. 


Funded Waste Diversion and Compost Programs

The County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability (OOS) uses its AB 939 fee revenue to administer various waste diversion and recycling programs for the county, including programs around public education and outreach, construction and demolition waste management, composting education and awareness, Green Business, and a schools outreach program focused on the 4Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot). A number of infographics are available for schools and gardens to use, including both hot composting and vermicomposting infographics. 

Public education programs include a sustainability hotline for information on where to recycle items and a website with resources for learning how to compost at home. 

The OOS has also piloted several new projects including a disposable food service ware ordinance, a grants program for nonprofits, schools, and government agencies, a community garden partnership program, and an edible food recovery program. Many of these programs are countywide in reach, but there are also some programs focused specifically on the unincorporated areas of the county.


More Information


*This policy writeup was a collaborative effort between ILSR and Krista Keuhnhackl, Sustainability Coordinator for San Mateo County*


Original post from March 13, 2023

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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.