California Organic Waste Recycling Regulations

THE REGULATION: In October 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1826 Chesbro (Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014) requiring that businesses to recycle their organic waste on and after April 1, 2016 based on the amount of weekly waste they generate. This law also requires that on and after January 1, 2016, local jurisdictions across the state implement an organic waste recycling program to divert organic waste generated by businesses. Organic waste, also referred to as ‘organics’, means food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste. This law phases in the mandatory recycling of commercial organics over time, while also offering an exemption process for rural counties. In particular, the minimum threshold of organic waste generation by businesses decreases over time. This means larger segments of the commercial sector will increasingly be required to comply. Legislation was enacted as China has stopped taking waste from the US, and landfills in the US are reaching critical capacity. California is making this legislative decision to take the load off landfills by requiring recycling at all levels in the state. 


IMPLEMENTATION: Effective January 1, 2019, California law AB 1826 also requires that businesses that have organic waste of 30 gallons (4 cubic yards) or more per week, must separate organic waste from other wastes. If your organic waste at the business is 30 gallons or more per week, you must set up separate containers for organics in the office and break rooms. Looking ahead, per AB 1826, if the State of California determines that the statewide recycling of organics in the year 2020 has not been reduced to 50% of the organic waste generated in 2014, then the organic recycling requirements on business will expand to cover businesses generating 15 gallons of organic waste per week. Even though the law was effective January 1, the counties and cities are now putting pressure on businesses to reduce the waste to landfills and are slowly ratcheting up the enforcement. 

ACTION NEEDED: Actions needed by management include clear labeling of containers for organic waste and directing employees to use them correctly. Janitorial services will then be required to collect the waste from the facility, keep them separated in organic and non-organic categories, and transfer the waste to the commercial hauler-provided specific containers for organic and non-organic waste. Essentially, management must provide separate containers for organic waste and non-organic waste (paper, plastic and glass) in the break room(s) and other locations where employees eat food and may dispose food and food-soiled paper. Commercial waste haulers for the facility must be contacted to provide separate bins for haul away, so that the janitorial staff can dispose the waste into proper containers as required by law.

NOTE: Mandatory recycling of organic waste is the next step toward achieving California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. California disposes approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills each year, of which more than 30 percent could be used for compost or mulch (Waste Characterization Study 2014). Organic waste such as green materials and food materials are recyclable through composting, mulching, and anaerobic digestion to produce renewable energy and fuel. GHG emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic wastes in land-fills have been identified as a significant source of emissions contributing to global climate change. Reducing the amount of organic material sent to landfills and increasing the production of compost and mulch are part of the AB 32 Scoping Plan (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006).  

DISCLAIMERThe contents of this newsletter are merely for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as legal advice.  Employers must consult their lawyer for legal matters and EPA/OSHA consultants for matters related to Environmental, Health & Safety. The article was authored by Sam Celly of Celly Services, Inc. who has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA and OSHA regulations since 1987. Sam received his BE (1984) and MS (1986) in Chemical Engineering, followed by a J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law (1997). Our newsletters can be accessed at Your comments/questions are always welcome. Please send them to

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