Mandatory Organics Recycling for Businesses

Overview of Organics Waste Recycling (AB 1826)

California generates 7 million tons of food scraps and landscape trimmings, collectively known as “organic waste,” just from businesses. To help meet California’s goal of recycling 75% of all waste, new legislation has been put in place that requires businesses to recycle organic waste.

Assembly Bill 1826 (AB 1826) requires that businesses and multifamily properties of five or more units that generate more than four cubic yards of solid waste (encompassing trash, organic waste, and recyclables) per week must arrange for organic waste to be diverted from disposal.

The City of Del Mar, in conjunction with its hauler, Waste Management, will perform outreach, education and monitoring for businesses that are affected by this regulation. In addition, the City is also required to monitor activities to identify those sending their organic material to the landfill and direct them towards proper organics diversion options.

Does This Law Apply to my Business? 

AB 1826 doesn’t just impact restaurants and food producing businesses. AB 1826 defines a business as a commercial or public entity, including but not limited to a firm, partnership, proprietorship, joint stock company, corporation, association that is organized as a for-profit or nonprofit entity, strip mall, industrial facility, school, school district, university, community college, special district or a federal, state, local, regional agency, or a multifamily residential dwelling of five or more units.

Currently, all businesses and multifamily dwellings that generate two cubic yards or more of solid waste (encompassing trash, organic waste, and recyclables) per week must have an organics diversion program in place. 

Covered businesses must also be in compliance with AB 827 (PDF), requiring organics and recycling containers be provided for customers onsite adjacent to trash receptacles, with clearly-marked educational signage that is visible and accessible. AB 827 is required specifically at businesses that offer products for immediate consumption. Full-service restaurants do not have to provide properly labeled containers for patrons, but must provide properly labeled recycling bins next to trash containers for employees to separate recyclables and organics for customers. 

Due to the current COVID-19 emergency, businesses that are not having customers consume products onsite do not currently need to have the appropriate containers and signage for customers to use. However, once businesses are operating with customers consuming products onsite, containers and signage need to be in place. 

Education and outreach materials are available on CalRecycle's website where businesses can find examples and templates for signage using the Education/Outreach Toolkit.  This includes CalRecycle's customizable "What to Put in Recycling, Composting, and Trash Bins" Model Signage:

What is Organic Waste?

Organic waste is food waste, yard waste, non-hazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper. Organic waste can be reduced, diverted, or recycled by means such as feeding humans, feeding animals, or composting.

Why Reduce Organic Waste?

Mandatory diversion of organic waste is the next step toward achieving California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas emission goals. California disposes approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills each year, of which more than 30 per cent is organic waste that could be used for compost or mulch. Organic waste in our landfill is harmful for these primary reasons:

  1. Organic waste fills our landfills and breaks down at a rate not much faster than non-organics due to improper decomposing conditions
  2. Sending organic waste to the landfill wastes valuable resources that could be used to improve our soil, conserve water, and feed people and animals.
  3. Gradual decomposition of organic waste in landfills has been identified as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global climate change. The released methane has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Reducing organic waste eliminates these harmful impacts and creates valuable resources to feed people in need, saves money for farmers, creates healthy soil, and more.

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History of AB 1826

Assembly Bill 1826 (AB 1826) was signed by California Governor, Jerry Brown, on September 28, 2014. The main policy drivers for AB 1826:

  1. Legislation AB 939 passed in 1989 mandating 50% minimum diversion of all solid waste by January 1, 2000 through source reduction, recycling, and composting activities
  2. The 2012 legislation AB 341 that mandated commercial recycling and set a 75% statewide waste diversion goals by 2020
  3. California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) recognizes the significant contribution of decaying organic matter to greenhouse gas production and the environmental benefits from diverting this material from landfills. Eliminating the greenhouse gas generation potential of solid waste is an important element of achieving a jurisdiction’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Relevant Sources