California’s Composting and Recycling Initiative

Published Mar 21, 2021

To reduce California’s reliance on landfills the governor and legislators came up with California's 75% initiative, an ambitious target of 75% of solid waste recycling, composting, or source reduction by 2020. California’s short-lived climate pollutant reduction strategy, or SB-1383. This plan also included reducing greenhouse emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. A significant part of the mission of the California department of resources recycling and recovery is to increase the diversity of organic materials from landfill sites and the observation of value-added items such as compost, fertilizers, and biofuels. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by the decomposition of organic material in landfill sites lead to global climate change. The reduction in the amount of organic material to the landfills is part of the AB-32 plan, ARB’s short-lived climate pollutant strategies to achieve a 75% recycling target across the state. AB-1826 focuses on the collection and processing of organic materials, especially food.

Organic waste is one of California's biggest sources of methane emissions when landfilled. However, the estate began taking action to counter this fact. The legislators and governor put 5 strategies and 3 additional focus areas that could be followed by the state. The following are 5 strategies presented by legislators: Moving Organics Out of the Landfill, Expanding the Recycling/Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Permitting/Compliance Assistance, and Financing, Exploring New Models for State and Local Funding of Materials Management Programs, Promoting State Procurement of Postconsumer Recycled Content Products, and Promoting Extended Producer Responsibility. Then the 3 additional areas to focus on, source reduction, commercial recycling, and other products (packaging, waste tires, e-waste, and used oil).

In addition to concentrating on these areas, lawmakers have passed legislation that stresses the importance of the matter. Bill AB-1826, passed January 1, 2016, stated, generators more than 4 cubic yards/ week of organic materials are required to divert those wastes to recycling( generators of 2cy/week or more in 2019). Bill AB-876, in 2015 requires counties to quantify the amount of organic waste that will be generated in the county over the next 15 year period and identify new or expanded organics recycling facilities that will be able to handle this material. And in 2016 Bill SB-1383, California legislators passed a bill creating a framework for reducing short-lived climate pollutants that will require the development of a comprehensive organics diversion and processing infrastructure to meet the bill's targets of 50% reduction in organic wastes disposed of by 2020 and 75% reduction by 2025.

These Californian regulations were drawn up to promote the production of better quality compost. Did they reach their goal? Calrecycle reported that a new low of 40% has reached the recycling rate of the state, well short of the 75% goal set by the state. Although they came up short of their goal, the implementation of these regulations also marks the first effort by the State to mandate food waste generators to recycle a significant portion of their edible food and to donate it to those in need.  They are the few to take a stance against climate change and even though their numbers hadn't met their goal their effort was better than ignoring the pressing issue.

California has not given up hope, as it still expects that it will be able to fulfill its recycling and composting needs by 2030, even if it could require tougher legislative bills and compromises.